After a topsy-turvy, dramatic win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Félix Auger-Aliassime made it a trifecta of Canadians to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP tournament in Marseille.
Auger-Aliassime joined teammates Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil in the final eight.
And, in a reversal of recent Canadian draw luck: none of them will play the other.
The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime saved three match points against him, and finally closed it out 11-9 in the third-set tiebreak. With an ace.
“I started incredibly. I couldn’t ask more of myself in the first set,” Auger-Aliassime said in a French-language interview on court after the win.
The Canadian won the first set 6-0, broke Herbert three times, and took 27 of the 40 points.
“What was courageous, good on his part was that he didn’t flinch. He hung in, and raised his level. There were very few break points on either side after that,” he added. “I was very surprised at the result of the first set. And after that, I … don’t really know what to say.”
Herbert won two points that featured Tweeners – one of them to take the second set.
“I tried to hold on as best as I could. Mentally, I tried to put it all in there to try to win it. But I don’t even know if that was a mental match,” Auger-Aliassime said, in response to a question about mental strength. “It was … all over the place.”
Herbert earned match point No. 2 after Auger-Aliassime hit a really good overhead that looked to have the point won. Not only did Herbert guess right on the direction he fired the forehand so hard down the line that Auger-Aliassime was sent sprawling to even get his racket on it.
“The return of the smash – I’ve never seen that. It was just incredible,” he said.
Shapo, Pospisil and FAA
Earlier in the day, Denis Shapovalov played his opening match in Marseille after a first-round bye.
And he was impressive in dispatching Marin Cilic 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. That one had its dramatic moments as well.
On Wednesday, Pospisil posted a very routine win – and an impressive upset – over No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. The 29-year-old also is into the semifinals in doubles with Herbert’s regular doubles partner, Nicolas Mahut.
Pospisil with the toughest matchup
Shapovalov will be first up on Friday against unseeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan – an unpredictable opponent who is capable of pulling out a big match on the day.
That one will be at 3 p.m. Marseille time (9 a.m. ET, 6 a.m. PT).
They’ll be followed by Pospisil against No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The two have played only once, in the qualifying of the ‘s-Hertogenbosch grass-court event in 2017.
But Pospisil can access plenty of intel from his teammates.
Tsitsipas is a former junior rival of the two younger Canadians. Auger-Aliassime was 3-for-3 against the Greek star in the juniors, and is 2-1 against him in the pros. Shapovalov has done even better: he also went 3-0 against him in the juniors – and is 4-0 against him in the pros. Let’s just say that Tsitsipas isn’t a huge fan of the red maple leaf.
Auger-Aliassime will be the second night-session match, after the fourth quarterfinal between No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev and Gilles Simon of France. It should start around 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET, noon PT).
He’ll play the winner between No. 3 seed David Goffin and qualifier Egor Gerasimov.
That match got under way after 10 p.m., following Auger-Aliassime and Herbert’s two hour, 41-minute drama-fest.
Marseille being a 250-level event, TSN/RDS do not have the broadcast rights. Hopefully they can work something out and get those matches on air Friday.
(All screenshots from TennisTV.com)