Canada’s Auger-Aliassime advances to QF at Australian Open with win over Cilic

MELBOURNE, Australia — Some 24 hours after Denis Shapovalov reached his first Australian Open men’s singles quarterfinal, friend and compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime joined him in the last eight.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Some 24 hours after Denis Shapovalov reached his first Australian Open men’s singles quarterfinal, friend and compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime joined him in the last eight.

Auger-Aliassime overcame a fast and furious start from 2018 runner-up Marin Cilic and held on until he could turn things around, in a 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2 victory , 7-6 (4) on a scorching day in Melbourne that challenged even the fittest tennis players in the world.

Fellow Canadian Milos Raonic has reached the quarter-finals or better at the Australian Open on five occasions.

But this is the first time that two Canadians have done so in the same year. And this is the second time in the last three Grand Slam tournaments that they have done so.

It is also the third consecutive Grand Slam tournament in which Auger-Aliassime reached at least the quarter-final stage.

Now it gets even tougher, as the two go up against the two biggest favorites to win the title among the eight that will remain after Monday’s game.

On Wednesday, Auger-Aliassime will face No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, who survived American Maxime Cressy’s serve-volley match – as well as the heat and a few physical issues – to advance on Monday.

But before that, Shapovalov will face 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on Tuesday.

“I’m thrilled for him and thrilled for Canadian tennis. I think we are both showing that we are not here by chance. We are proving week after week that we are here to stay,” Auger-Aliassime said.

The Montreal native had managed just one set in three previous losses to the Croatian.

Cilic was almost untouchable in the first set; Auger-Aliassime couldn’t do much.

The 21-year-old Canadian was also erratic on the forehand – a problem he’s spent the last two years on tour trying to solve.

He hung on by his fingernails, waiting for Cilic’s superb level to drop and his own to rise.

“I tried to stay in touch, to find a solution little by little. And I started serving better in the second set,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“Compared to the other times I played it, there was less panic on my part. I stayed more calm. I believed in myself a bit more and I think that’s what made the difference at the end,” he added. “It’s a nice improvement for me, in various aspects of my game.”

Another player Auger-Aliassime has yet to beat in three tries is Medvedev.

He came closest to it when they first met, at the National Bank Open in Toronto in 2018 when Auger-Aliassime had just turned 18.

Medvedev won in a third-set tiebreaker.

“We both evolved over the times we played. That first time (in 2018) he was not the Medvedev of today, and I am not the same either,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“At the US Open (Medvedev won in straight sets last September, in Auger-Aliassime’s first Grand Slam semi-final, and won the tournament), my level was pretty good. I had a set point on my racquet in the second set. The match might have been a little different if I had converted him,” the Canadian said.

The two met again in the ATP Cup semi-finals earlier this month in Sydney. It was a 6-4, 6-0 victory for Medvedev.

“That one was largely in his favor. I will see what I can improve, because I will have to be better than that physically and mentally to stay with him,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canadian tennis fans have been up until all hours due to the 4 p.m. time difference, watching the two Canadian men reach the final stages of the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.

Auger-Aliassime will be hoping the Melbourne sun – and the win – can be a bit of a distraction from everything going on at home.

“With the very cold winter, the pandemic protocols and the lockdown, hopefully we can put a smile on people’s faces,” he said.

He also hopes it sends a message about Canadian tennis.

“I hope it gives the idea to people back home that it’s possible. I mean, we did it. I sincerely believe that other Canadians can do it too, even if we weren’t not originally a tennis country,” he said. “I think now we really are. We’ve demonstrated that over and over again.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 23, 2022.

Stephanie Myles, The Canadian Press

Comments are closed.