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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, June 16, 2021

 
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Felix Auger-Aliassime hit eight of his 13 aces in the final set topping Roger Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 reaching to his second straight grass-court quarterfinal in Halle.

Photo credit: Getty

Roger Federer has commanded the Halle lawn with the comfort level of a man playing in his own backyard.

Today, Felix Auger-Aliassime unleashed his all-court attacking bouncing the 10-time Halle champion out of the Noventi Open second round.

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Auger-Aliassime slashed his 13th ace on match point defeating Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 advancing to his second straight grass-court quarterfinal.

The 20-year-old Canadian, who shares the same August 8th birthday as the 39-year-old Federer, grew up idolizing the 20-time Grand Slam champion, was thrilled to share the court with his hero but showed no benevolence at closing time.




In the final set, Auger-Aliassime slashed eight of his 13 aces, won all 13 points played on his first serve and dropped just two points on serve in a dazzling closing set performance. 

"It's a amazing," Auger-Aliassime said afterward. "It's an amazing win. I for sure didn't expect this. Of course I come into the match wanting to win. But Roger was my idol lke many of us growing up. So first of all it was a huge honor to play him before he retired and to beat him is something amazing that I will cherish.

"It's a great moment for me Hopefully I can keep going in the tournament."

Playing just his eighth match of the season, Federer showed signs of rust playing before a small crowd of primarily corporate tournament supporters as well as wife Mirka. The 10-time champion wasn't hitting his spots as accurately on serve as he did in his opening win over qualifier Ilya Ivashka, frequently missed his first serve in dropping successive serve games to open the final set and sprayed his normally sharp forehand on a few passes.

Ultimately, Auger-Aliassime, who has practiced with Federer in Dubai in the past, played a cleaner match and more dynamic tennis when it mattered most. After failing to convert on his first eight break points, Auger-Aliassime broke in three of the Swiss' last six service games closing in one hour, 44 minutes.

"I always thought he would be gone when I arrived because he was already winning Grands Slams and I was only five years old," Auger-Aliassime said. "Never expected to play him..so now to be on the same court as him and get the win..."

Tennis Express

Empowered by his run to last week's Stuttgart final where he suffered his eighth finals loss to Marin Cilic, Auger-Aliassime shrugged off the opening set loss as a reality chck, drove his returns deep and took the net away from Federer on pivotal points raising his career grass record to 13-4 while denying Federer a 70th Halle victory.

"I was playing really well, serving well, protecting my serve really good. I served amazingly in the third set," Auger-Aliassime said. "It was tough in the first set I thought he was playing so good. I was playing almost perfect, as good as I could play, and I lost 6-4.

"I was like if he was in his prime when he was No. 1 in the world that must have been scary. I still believed in my chances. I felt like since I was serving well, I wanted to see what I could do and it went my way. So it's really great."

The Canadian showed his comfort level on serve taking all the air out of a backhand drop volley winner as he cruised through his second love hold in three service games for a 3-2 lead.




Tested by some deep Auger-Aliassime returns, Federer dragged a forehand wide to face double break point in the sixth game. The 39-year-old Swiss saved both scalding an ace down the middle to erase the second. Federer worked through the toughest hold to level after six games.

Serving at 30-all, Auger-Aliassime tested the Federer forehand crosscourt and paid the price as the eight-time Wimbledon champion torched a forehand strike down the line for break point. Attacking the Swiss' backhand, Auger-Aliassime could not react as Federer fired a backhand pass down the opposite sideline breaking with a flourish for 4-3 after 22 minutes.

The fifth-seeded Federer whipped the wide serve to displace Auger-Aliassime off the court then cranked a crosscourt forehand confirming the break for 5-3.

Serving for the set, Federer faced double break point and shifted into superior mode. A tremendous backhand flick from atop the baseline helped the Swiss extend the point before he stepped in and slashed a sensational backhand swing volley to erase the second break point. On his first set point, Federer flowed forward for a crisp blocked backhand volley to seal the first set that saw him fight off four break points in all.

The world No. 21 played a solid set, serving 74 percent, winning 14 of 17 first-serve points, matching Federer with three aces and dropping just five points on serve total, but the Swiss converted his lone break point and made the margin stand.

Though Auger-Aliassime hadn't earned a break he continued to threaten the eight-time Wimbledon winner's serve with some deep returns. In the fourth game, Federer fought off triple break point, followed a forehand forward and slid a forehand volley holding for 2-2.




A sweet full-stretch forehand flick helped earn Auger-Aliassime another break point in the sixth game, but the Canadian's forehand betrayed him on a couple of points. Still, Auger-Aliassime kept taking his cracks, danced around a backhand and dragged an inside-in forehand to open the court before going inside-out to earn a ninth break point. The Canadian sent a deep forehand return right down the middle coaxing a netted forehand to break for 4-2.

Serving for the set, Auger-Aliassime lashed an ace, deadened a perfect drop volley, spike a serve winner and hammered down another serve winner to serve out the set at 15 and force a decider. Auger-Aliassime attacked with confidence at times in the set and served with command winning eight of his last nine serve points to set up the third set.

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The 10-time champion struggled to land his first serve in the opening game of the decider—he landed just three first serves—and Auger-Aliassime, who was pressing the issue with his forehand, made Federer pay. Though the Swiss dug out of triple break point in the opening game of the decider, Auger-Aliassime didn't let him off the hook. Sustaining the depth of his drives, Auger-Aliassime drew an errant backhand to break.

Elevation was required for Federer to bounce back from that opening concentration lapse, but the Swiss produced one of his sloppiest service games. Frozen at net guessing the wrong way, Federer did not move for the Canadian's pass and dumped a forehand volley into the bottom of the net gifting the second break and a 3-0 lead to Auger-Aliassime.




The 6'4" Canadian cranked his sixth ace out wide holding at 15 to extend the lead to 4-0.

The Stuttgart finalist fired his final ace down the middle to seal the win over his hero.

Next up for Auger-Aliassime is a quarterfinal meeting with Marcos Giron.

The American qualifier defeated German Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-4, the day after Struff toppled top-seeded Daniil Medvedev.

 

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