Felix Saves 6 MPs To Stun Paul, Sets Alcaraz QF
With all eight fourth-round matches played on Tuesday at the BNP Paribas Open, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Tommy Paul might have saved the best for last. In one of two three-setters on the day — the other a thrilling win for Daniil Medvedev against Alexander Zverev — Auger-Aliassime fought off six match points to edge the American 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6).
Next up for the eighth seed in his first Indian Wells quarter-final: a Thursday showdown with Carlos Alcaraz, who moved past Jack Draper via a second-set retirement earlier in the night.
With the stunning victory, Auger-Aliassime has now reached the quarters at each of the past six ATP Masters 1000 events, including his current run. He has advanced to that stage at seven of the nine Masters 1000s on the calendar, with Monte Carlo and Shanghai the lone exceptions.
"I always stayed positive, I kept my hopes up, I kept thinking, 'OK, I'm not that far, I can come back,'" a relieved Auger-Aliassime said of his great escape against Paul. "At the end, when you're down 0/40 on your serve, you know that... 'OK if I win this first one, serve well, then again, then again, we're back on even terms.'
"You just kind of take it one by one. It's very cliche to say but it still works; that's the proof. I'm really happy to get through. It's a crazy feeling."
In his first ATP Head2Head meeting with the surging American, Auger-Aliassime was battling from behind all evening, dropping the first set and trailing 0-3 in the third. After levelling the decider at 3-3, he stared down three match points at 0/40 while serving at 5-6.
Behind some timely big serves, the 22-year-old won five straight points to force a tie-break. But some inspired play from Paul brought up three more match points at 6/3 after he scored five straight points of his own.
Yet another five-point run ended the match, with the Canadian erasing the last of the six match points on return at 5/6.
The desert crowd played its part in the drama by providing endless support to both men, despite the match finishing near midnight local time. Even though he was facing an American, Auger-Aliassime felt the love from the many Canadians in the stands.
"It's great. I thought it was 50/50," he said of the support. "It was good for both of us, sometimes chanting for him, sometimes for me, and at the end they were just pushing both of us. They were thrilled by the suspense, by the show. But it's so nice to come here every year and to see so many Canadian flags and support from back home."
Before he takes on Alcaraz in the quarters, Auger-Aliassime will team up with countryman Denis Shapovalov in Wednesday's doubles quarter-finals.
"It's a special tournament so far," said the Canadian, who will bid to improve to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head with Alcaraz when he returns to the singles court.