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By Chris Oddo | Saturday February 23, 2019

 
Felix Auger-Aliassime

Felix-Auger Aliassime became the youngest player to ever reach and ATP 500 final by defeating Pablo Cuevas at Rio on Saturday.

Photo Source: Buda Mendes/Getty

Canadian sensation Felix Auger-Aliassime has made more history this week in Brazil. Already the youngest ATP player to ever hold a ranking and the fourth-youngest player to ever reach the Top 200, Auger-Aliassime is now the youngest player to ever reach the final of an ATP 500 event.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s so surreal,” said a smiling Auger-Aliassime after the match.

The 18-year-old knocked off veteran Pablo Cuevas 6-3 3-6 6-3 on Saturday in Rio to book a title match with Serbia’s Laslo Djere. He will make his ATP Top 100 debut on Monday inside the Top 60 and could even go as high as 43 if he wins the title.


Serbia's Djere reached the final earlier on Satureday, when Aljaz Bedene was forced to pull out due to a right leg injury.

Auger-Aliassime was the more dominant player in the opening set and he ran Cuevas to and fro and everywhere in between to take the upper hand with an impressive and physical brand of clay-court tennis.

But after a medical consult and some tweaking to his neck and right arm, Cuevas emerged to make it a fight in the second set. The 33-year-old Uruguayan broke twice and controlled the baseline better, forcing the Canadian, 15 years his junior, into a decider.

Re-energized, Auger-Aliassime quickly struck with a break for 2-0 and then held to stretch the lead to 3-0 in set three against the 2016 Rio Open champion.

Cuevas, who dropped to 13-5 lifetime at Rio with his defeat, had a look at a break point with Auger-Aliassime serving at 4-2 but he was pushed back behind the baseline and groaned in agony when he missed a crosscourt backhand well wide.

Two games later the Canadian needed four match points to finally seal the victory after he raced out to a 5-3, 40-0 lead but dropped three points in succession, the last one featuring a nervous smash that found the middle of the net after a long rally.

Auger-Aliassime didn’t dwell on that disappointment. He rifled a big serve and converted a smash to earn his fourth match point and then drilled another perfectly placed serve and finished off the contest with a forehand winner to seal his spot in the final.

“That was the craziest thing that ever happened to me,” the Canadian said of the match point experience on court after the match. “You get a bit tense, but I was able to recover and play two great points at the end, so it was great.”


 

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