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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, February 15, 2020

 
Felix Auger-Aliassime

Felix Auger-Aliassime hit his 16th ace sealing a 7-6(2), 6-4 semifinal win over Pablo Carreno Busta to make his mark as the first Canadian finalist in Rotterdam history.

Photo credit: ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Facebook

Felix Auger-Aliassime punctuated a historic semifinal statement with a powerful exclamation point.

Auger-Aliassime drilled his 16th ace sealing a 7-6(2), 6-4 semifinal win over Pablo Carreno Busta in style to make his mark as the first Canadian finalist—and youngest finalist—in Rotterdam's distinguished 46-year history.

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Continuing his quest for his first ATP title, the 19-year-old Canadian charged into his first ATP hard-court final where he will meet either defending champion Gael Monfils or Serbian Filip Krajinovic. The ninth-ranked Frenchman faces Krajinovic for the second straight week following his run to the Montpellier title on Sunday.





In a physical test, Auger-Aliassime rode his electric serve and knack for the big strike to subdue the Spaniard, who fought off two match points in a pulsating 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(7) quarterfinal win over 18-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner and looked a little leg weary in the latter stages of today's semifinal.

Auger-Aliassime served 68 percent, won 45 of 48 first-serve points and denied all four break points he faced in a tense one hour, 48-minute semifinal win that turned on a single break of serve.




At 5-all, love-30, the Canadian curled an ace down the T but double-faulted deep to face double break point.

The world No. 21 saved both break points squeezing through a tough hold for 6-5 when the Spaniard slapped a forehand into net.

Elevating in the tie breaker, Auger-Aliassime showed his versatility drawing Carreno Busta off the baseline with a mid-court slice backhand then banging the two-handed pass down the line for 3-0.

Dancing around the backhand, Auger-Aliassime swept a forehand down line for 4-0. Finding the groove on his forehand return, the Canadian punished a forehand crosscourt earning the mini-break for 5-2.

Auger-Aliassime slid a wide serve closing a tight first set with a firm “Allez!”

A brief coughing fit hit Auger-Aliassime early in the second set eventually subsiding.

The Miami Open semifinalist is a heavier hitter. Carreno Busta tried to combat the pace playing a bit flatter. He netted a backhand down the line to gift the break and a 2-1 second-set lead to Auger-Aliassime compounding the miscue winding up and slamming his Wilson racquet to the Rotterdam court in a rare show of anger.

A calm Auger-Aliassime breezed through a love hold to back up the break.

The teenager had break point chances in the fifth game, but Carreno Busta stood strong to hold. Dotting the box with his 11th ace, Auger-Aliassime closed a love hold for 4-2.





Still, Carreno Busta kept coming earning break point in the eighth game. The Spaniard had Auger-Aliassime on the defensive, but the Canadian guessed right on a crosscourt forehand, defended his way back into the point then spun a backhand winner down the line to erase the break point.

While Auger-Aliassime has sometimes shown signs of tightness serving out big matches that was not the case today. The teenager lasered a 131 mph ace, knocked off a forehand volley to earn match points then smacked his 16th ace to close in style.


 

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