Felix Stuns 'Idol' Federer To Reach Halle QF
Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied from a set down to claim a statement win against former World No. 1 Roger Federer on Wednesday, triumphing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals at the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle.
The 20-year-old Canadian was calm and confident against his childhood idol, even after narrowly dropping the opening set on one of Federer's favoured courts. The two-time Stuttgart finalist completed the comeback to secure his fourth Top 10 victory (4-15) and one of the biggest wins of his career.
"It’s a great victory, it’s good for my confidence. It was already a great challenge for me to play a player like Roger, but to beat him, it’s a great thing," Auger-Aliassime said. "It makes me really happy. But at the end, it’s the quarter-finals in two days.
"If it was the final, then I’d be really happy… it’s another step in the tournament, it’s a great match, so hopefully I can keep on going like that."
Federer, who has lifted the trophy in Halle a record 10 times, was playing against the 20-year-old for the first time. The pair share the same birthday, 8 August, but are separated by 19 years – the biggest age difference in Federer’s 1,521 career matches.
Auger-Aliassime will next face American qualifier Marcos Giron, who saved all four break points he faced to defeat big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-4. Struff had upset top seed Daniil Medvedev in the first round.
Federer, who came into the matchup with a 32-0 record in first and second rounds in Halle, was seeking his 18th quarter-final appearance. He made a confident start as he controlled the rallies in the opening set, drawing Auger-Aliassime in with smart approach shots and passing him at the net. The Swiss converted his lone break opportunity with a blazing backhand down the line at 4-3, and comfortably closed out the set.
"In the first set, I didn’t think I could have played much better outside of just missing one forehand in my service game and then he hit two amazing passing shots and I was just like 'Whoa,’" Auger-Aliassime recalled. "I understand how good he is and how good he was when he was No. 1 in the world, so it was tough."
But Auger-Aliassime refused to wilt away, and changed his tactics in the second set to target Federer’s backhand with his strong serves. The Canadian earned attackable chip returns and had Federer under pressure, creating five break points across two games as a result and converting one for a 4-2 lead.
The Canadian continued his charge into the third set, taking advantage of a dip in Federer’s first serve percentage – from 73 per cent of first serves in the first set to 58 per cent in the third – to go up a double break. Auger-Aliassime, who only faced one break point in the match, opened up a 4-0 lead and kept his nose in front to close out the victory in an hour and 45 minutes.
"Everything worked well today, to be honest. I think that’s what you need to do against Roger," he said. "On my part, I served really well. I was able to put in a lot of returns, mix up coming to the net, closing well. I think overall I did a good match."
Fifth seed Federer was seeking his 70th match win in Halle, and his 18th quarter-final at this event in as many appearances. The defeat against Auger-Aliassime now brings his record on the season to 5-3.