What Does Victorious Felix Really Want? A Birthday Cake Like Federer's
The crowd wanted more, but Milos Raonic's back felt otherwise. The No. 1 Canadian had to retire after evening his second-round match at the Coupe Rogers against countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 6-3 on Wednesday night because of persistent back pain.
"I felt generally sore in my back before the match started, but it wasn't something I was too concerned about. It started going down my leg pretty early into one of my service games," Raonic said. "The last 30 minutes of that match, just because of the situation we're playing in, being prime time night match here in Montreal, were probably the least enjoyable 30 minutes I've spent on a tennis court."
Auger-Aliassime broke in the fourth game of the opener, but Raonic raised his level in the second and held to love to wrap up the set. The 28-year-old, however, who's been prone to injuries throughout his career, saw the trainer and a doctor during the second set and promptly retired after his service game.
"It was tough to see Milos' face. He's a good friend of mine. I remember when we crossed after the second set, I could feel he was pretty sad about something. It wasn't fun to see him like that," Auger-Aliassime said. "At the end of the day I wish it's not too bad because it's tough to see him go out like that."
The Canadians were playing in front of a packed house on Court Central in Montreal as their match gained top billing in Auger-Aliassime's hometown. The 18-year-old, who turns 19 on Thursday and shares a birthday with Roger Federer, is through to the third round at his home ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time. Auger-Aliassime doesn't have any big plans for his birthday, but he wouldn't mind a cake like Federer had in Montreal years ago.
"Whether it is my birthday or not, it doesn't change the preparation for my match. Of course, it would be a beautiful gift for me to be able to go to the quarter-finals," Auger-Aliassime said. "I have a memory when I was a kid that there was a cake for Federer, because it was his birthday. It's the same date for me. I thought, 'Well, I would love to play on centre court and have a cake on centre court.' When you're eight years old, it seems incredible to get a cake on centre court."
Khachanov recovered well after Wawrinka grabbed momentum in the second-set tie-break. The 23-year-old, No. 8 in the ATP Rankings, made his first Grand Slam quarter-final in June at Roland Garros and is going for his second Masters 1000 title this week. Khachanov beat Novak Djokovic last November in the Rolex Paris Masters final for his maiden Masters 1000 crown.
"If I give him time to get behind the ball and dictate the points, it's going to be tough for me," Auger-Aliassime said. "The main challenge here is to dictate the points from the first few balls, from the serve, the ball after, and on the return like I did today in the first set. I think the two first matches prepared me well for the type of player I'm going to play tomorrow. If I can do the right things on my side again, it's going to help a lot."