Felix Fends Off Taberner Threat In Barcelona
Felix Auger-Aliassime dug deep to notch his second clay-court win of 2022 on Wednesday with a hard-fought 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 win over spirited qualifier Carlos Taberner in the second round of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
The third seed made a fast start on the clay in Catalunya before holding firm to recover from a second-set lapse and secure a two-hour, 44-minute win at the ATP 500 event.
Auger-Aliassime powered to a career-best 15-4 start to the 2022 season after securing a maiden title in Rotterdam and reaching the final in Marseille in February, but since then had won only one match in four tournaments. This battling victory over Taberner will give the World No. 9 a real confidence boost as he looks to improve on his run to the quarter-finals in Barcelona from last year.
“He [Taberner] is a good clay-court player," said Auger-Aliassime in his on-court interview. "He had a good win yesterday, I’m sure he was feeling confident.
"On my part, I had a great start to the match. It was unfortunate that I lost my rhythm a little bit in the second set, lost my serve too many times, but I credit him also for defending well, showing a great level for a clay-court player, so it was not easy to get over [the line] today, serving for the match, but eventually to be through, it’s a thrill.”
World No. 94 Taberner appeared overwhelmed by the power of his higher-ranked opponent in the opening set but from then on came somewhere close to the level that took him to a biggest career win over World No. 37 Sebastian Korda in the first round on Tuesday. The qualifier showed real fight in wet and windy conditions at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona-1899, but just fell short in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting.
The opening exchanges served as a stark reminder that Auger-Aliassime’s thunderous forehand can be just as effective on clay as on faster surfaces. Taberner had no answer to the Canadian’s power off that wing and the third seed eased to the first set having dropped just two of 19 points behind his first serve.
Taberner had been impressive in dispatching Korda in the opening round and after a brief rain delay early in the second set the 24-year-old began to settle in his pursuit of a maiden Top 10 win. The stoppage also seemed to disrupt the Auger-Aliassime gameplan, and enough errors came from the third seed’s racquet to give the qualifier the chance he needed as Taberner broke for 5-3 before fending off three break points to hold and clinch the set.
A see-saw final frame saw Auger-Aliassime fail to serve out for the match at 5-3, but the Canadian rediscovered the rhythm on his groundstrokes to clinch a crucial fifth break of the match and reach the third round in Barcelona for the third year in a row.
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Auger-Aliassime will be pleased with his winner count of 30 but will seek a reduction on the 40 unforced errors he made against Taberner in his next outing, and the Canadian was keen to learn from his mid-match struggles for next time.
“I don’t like to have outside excuses for my level," he said. "I was playing well. There wasn’t really any reason, we didn’t have a long stop. Maybe I should have been a little bit more patient with the balls getting heavy and the conditions being slower in that second set.
"But again, I thought he played well also. It’s fine. There’s tough matches, tough opponents always, so it’s OK to struggle sometimes.”
Tiafoe reached a third tour-level quarter-final on clay in Houston two weeks ago and the thirteenth seed was too strong for World No. 89 Dellien on Wednesday. The 13th seed recovered 2-4 to clinch the first set on a tie-break before accelerating through the second to book a first tour-level meeting on the red dirt with Auger-Aliassime.
The straightforward scoreline disguised what was a tough battle for 2018 and 2021 semi-finalist Carreno Busta, who lost his serve three times against the World No. 119. Carreno Busta also had plenty of joy in his own return games, however, including five consecutive breaks mid-match that quelled his opponent’s spirited resistance. Carreno Busta now faces a third-round clash with 11th seed Lorenzo Sonego.
Also on Wednesday, Marton Fucsovics notched an impressive win against experienced clay-courter Federico Delbonis. Fucsovics had lost the pair’s only previous meeting in straight sets on the red dirt in Geneva in 2019 but it was the Hungarian who dominated in Catalunya, powering to a 6-2, 6-1 win to set a third-round clash with fourth seed Cameron Norrie.
There was also second-round joy for Emil Ruusuvuori, who followed up his 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of Feliciano Lopez on Tuesday with a comfortable 6-3, 6-1 win over 16th seed Alexander Bublik. Ruusuvuori’s red-hot form in Barcelona will be put to a stern test in the third round, however, as he next faces second seed Casper Ruud.