Auger-Aliassime through to face Tsitsipas

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – It was only a blip in time ago that Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime beating a player in an ATP Tour event was a big deal, an impressive win.

Fast forward a few months, and the 18-year-old made his 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 48 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain look almost routine.

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“During matches, and tournaments, you get used to the level. I’ve raised my ranking and my level, too. You have to expect the best. But I think I was able to impose myself from the first rallies, and maintain it through the whole match. It wasn’t a routine win, but it was a very good match on my part,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I was able to stay calm. Even when he had break points. I was able to take my time, serve well, manage it well.”

Auger-Aliassime served at 80 per cent, and won 80 per cent of his first serve points.

He also won 6-of-10 on second serve – a stat that can fluctuate for him. But when it’s that good, it’s hard for an opponent to see a way through it.

Auger-Aliassime blasted one serve at 131 mph.

Serve the focus in transition to hard court

Coach Frédéric Fontang said that one of the first things they did upon arrival in the desert from the South American clay-court season was to stabilize the serve.

There had been some ups and downs with it on the clay. But on the hard courts, it’s even more of a weapon for him even if he felt he had used it to good effect on the clay.

“Norrie is a dangerous player because he hangs tough. He’s a counter-puncher, and he’s able to find angles as a left-hander. He’s someone who’s difficult to overpower. And he waits for the error, with a flat backhand and a lot of spin on the forehand,” Fontang said. “For Felix, the plan was to create space, and then move forward. He forced Norrie into trying to do too much, and he was the one making the errors.”

Tsitsipas is next for Auger-Aliassime

The next match for Auger-Aliassime is one that will gain a lot of attention.

He will face Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has moved into the top 10 just as Auger-Aliassime has moved into the top 60.

The two are almost exactly two years apart. Tsitsipas’ Aug. 12 birthday (when he turns 21) comes just four days after Auger-Aliassime turns 19.

This will be the first time they meet in the pros. But back in the juniors, it was the Canadian who dominated their rivalry.

Canadian dominates junior rivalry

They squared off three times: in the Canadian Open junior championships just before the 2015 US Open, at the Eddie Herr in Florida that December, and in the semis of the 2016 junior US Open boys’ singles.

All three were won by the younger Auger-Aliassime. He went on to beat Miomir Kecmanovic in that US Open boys’ final.

In those three matches, Tsitsipas only managed one set.

But if Auger-Aliassime was precocious in the juniors, it has been Tsitsipas who has been precocious in the pros.

His appearance in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto last summer was the clarion bell. And his win over Roger Federer during a run to the Australian Open semifinals in January was further confirmation.

“He’s really playing well right now. He’s put together lots of tournaments, lots of matches, and he’s confident. But I’ve done that, too,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“The fact that I knew him in juniors – even though we’re very different players now – it definitely adds something to have already have played against him. It’s better to have beaten him than to have lost to him – even in the juniors. And I know he’s not crazy about playing opponents younger than he is.”

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