A set-and-a-break deficit. Two match points faced. No problem for Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The Canadian was in deep trouble Thursday evening in Cincinnati, but rallied past Jannik Sinner 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open.
“Jannik was just playing too good. I didn’t have a great start, I was missing a lot. But I just had no time. He was playing so fast, so precise, serving well. For a set and a half, it was just too good,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. “That game he broke me in the second, returning on the baseline for three returns in a row, you can’t do much better, so I had to give it to him.
“But at the end, I was still on the court trying to find ways, trying to fight and trying to see how I could make him miss a few more balls and to put myself in a competing position and I did that well… To come back and play that way in the tie-break and the third set, that means a lot to me going forward.”
For the first half of the match, Sinner’s power and returning of Auger-Aliassime’s big serve had the 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion in full control. The 20-year-old led 6-2, 4-2 and later held two consecutive match points at 6-2, 6-5, 15/40, but he was unable to close out the match.
On the first of those match points, Sinner hit a blistering return to sixteen the offensive, but later missed a high forehand into the top of the net. Auger-Aliassime then crushed a serve-and-forehand combination to stave off the Italian’s next opportunity.
From there, Sinner’s level dipped and Auger-Aliassime found more consistency to completely flip the tone of the clash. The Canadian played a flawless tie-break while his opponent’s game failed.
Auger-Aliassime now leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head 2-0 after defeating Sinner 6-1, 6-2 on clay three months ago at the Mutua Madrid Open.
“I had to move better after my second serve because you hit a second serve, he plays early and he hits it really hard right at you, so there’s not much you can do. Sometimes it’s too good,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But I had to move my feet a little bit more, start the rally and then see how it goes. I think I did that better.”
This was a critical match in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Auger-Aliassime consolidated sixth place in the Live Race as he tries to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. Sinner is in 15th, but had an opportunity to make up ground this week with a deep run in Ohio.
The seventh seed will next play World No. 152 Borna Coric, who has enjoyed a dream run this week as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. The Croatian has upset Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut in back-to-back matches.
Did You Know?
Auger-Aliassime has now reached four consecutive ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finals. The Canadian will try to reach his first semi-final at this level since 2019 in Miami when he plays Coric.