18-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime notched his sixth victory in a row at the Tashkent Challenger, this time defeating World No. 87 Denis Istomin 7-6(4), 6-4 to reach the semifinals in what has been a whirlwind week for the young Canadian.
Having fought his way through the qualifying competition as a result of his late entry into the tournament, Auger-Aliassime was pushed to the limit twice in the Uzbekistani capital. In the first round of qualifying, he edged out a 7-5 third set win against Aslan Karatsev and in the main draw overcame Alexey Vatutin 7-6(7) in the decisive set. Against two-time ATP World Tour titlist Istomin, however, the score was much more decisive.
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The Uzbekistani got off to a quick start against Auger-Aliassime, breaking the World No.128 to love in his opening service game, but that early break would be Istomin’s only of the match as the Canadian would storm back from 1-4 down to level the score. With both players dictating play effectively behind their serves, the first set would be decided by a tiebreak, which Auger-Aliassime ultimately closed out on his fourth set point.
A swift break of the Istomin serve in the second set would be all the 18-year-old would need, dropping just three points on serve for the remainder of the 30-minute set. Auger-Aliassime’s defeat of Istomin, who famously defeated Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2017, marks a fourth Top 100 win of the season and pushes him closer to his year-end goal of cracking that very ranking milestone. Winning the title in Tashkent would put him around No. 107 in the 52-week ATP Rankings, but would vault him to just around No. 100 in the year-to-date ranks, depending on results from other players this week.
Auger-Aliassime next faces World No. 242 Egor Gerasimov for a spot in his third ATP Challenger Tour final of 2018 (1-1).
(Feature photo: Getty Images)