Felix Takes Out Rublev in Rotterdam
Felix Auger-Aliassime is one step close to finally capturing his maiden tour-level title after an impressive comeback win over defending champion Andrey Rublev at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
The third seed seemed under pressure for much of the semi-final clash before accelerating to a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 win on Saturday evening.
“It was a close second set," said Auger-Aliassime after the match. "I played one really strong game, finished it off well on my serve and then after the third started I felt really good physically, felt like I was able to put pressure on him and move him around, and then things got better and better.”
There are just two places between World No. 7 Rublev and No. 9 Auger-Aliassime in the ATP Rankings and a tight encounter reflected that. But the Canadian found a way to raise his game at big moments to secure his first win over the Russian.
“It’s always a great feeling, it’s kind of a little milestone when you beat a player that you’ve always lost to before, especially top players and I think it shows I’ve improved my game, I’m a more complete player.
"Again today I served well when I needed to. I came up with some good shots, especially at the end of the second set. I really needed to stick in there and give myself a chance and then to finish the way I did against a player like Andrey was great. The third set was one of my best this week.”
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Rublev came into the semi-finals having not dropped serve in his opening three matches in Rotterdam. and he showed real composure under pressure to maintain that record in the first set. He recovered from 0/40 down in both the sixth and 12th games as Auger-Aliassime was unable to convert.
After saving a fourth set point to level at 6-6 with a stunning backhand down the line, Rublev then enjoyed a fast start to the tie-break, surging to a 3/0 lead. Auger-Aliassime was able to peg it back to 5/5, but then struck a backhand into the net to gift Rublev his first set point, an opportunity the Russian gratefully accepted.
Rublev seemed in control but once Auger-Aliassime recovered from 0/40 to level at 3-3 in the second set, there was a clear shift in momentum. The Russian missed an easy forehand to finally surrender his serve in Rotterdam as the Canadian broke for 5-4 before holding to level up proceedings.
The sudden turnaround seemed to affect Rublev’s concentration. The Russian saved break points in his opening service game of the decider, but could not repeat the trick in either the third or fifth games of the set, as Auger-Aliassime found consistency in his groundstrokes.
The young Canadian went on to seal an impressive victory in two hours and 21 minutes, having blasted 41 winners, including 11 aces.
His opponent in the championship match will be World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek overcame a scare before ending the dream run of Czech qualifier Jiri Lehecka with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win earlier on Saturday. Tsitsipas leads Auger-Aliassime 5-2 in their ATP Head2Head series 5-2.
Auger-Aliassime holds a 0-8 record in tour-level finals, but will do everything he can to break his duck on Sunday. “Hopefully all the stars are aligned," he said, "but for my part I just need to play with no regrets, bring my best intensity and focus, give it my all and we’ll see what the outcome is, but I’m confident I can pull this through.”