Photo : Martin Sidorjak
Spring is a season of rebirth and that looks to be the case for Félix Auger-Aliassime.
After struggling for the last few months, the Canadian seems to have refound the form that saw him dominate the early in the season as he reached his first Masters 1000 quarter-final of the year at the Madrid Open with a big win over Jannik Sinner.
Since reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals followed by back-to-back finals in February, Auger-Aliassime had gone 4-6 and only won back-to-back matches once.
However, a day after his first win at the Masters 1000 level in 2022 in the fourth such event, the Canadian was looking like the player who won his maiden title early this year, dominating the rallies and crushing his serve in a 6-1, 6-2 victory that never appeared in doubt.
Everything was clicking for Auger-Aliassime on Thursday. He won an astounding 90 percent of his first serve points and only lost eight total points on his serve, never facing a break point in the match.
In the rallies, he did everything better, ripping 28 winners while only allowing seven of the Italian’s shots past him. He also only committed 16 unforced errors, six fewer than his opponent.
Coming off an opening-match win where he won the last seven games in a row, Auger-Aliassime carried that good form into his third-round clash, pummeling Sinner right from the start and controlling points with great depth on his shots.
Sinner cracked under the pressure quickly, double-faulting on break point to go down 3-1. Two games later, he sent a pair of crucial forehands long to give away a second break as the Canadian raced through the opening set.
It was more of the same in the second, as Auger-Aliassime set up a break point in the opening game with a good passing shot before Sinner dumped a forehand into the net to surrender the early break.
The Canadian refused to let up and kept his opponent under constant pressure with his superb hitting. A pair of stunning winners gave him a second break
Once up a break in the second set, the match was effectively over with the way Auger-Aliassime was serving. He only lost one point on his serve in the second set and finished the match by winning the last 14 points on his serve in a row, including three straight holds to love, to book his place in the last eight.
Auger-Aliassime will now look to reach just his second Masters 1000 semi-final, and first since Miami in 2019, when he takes on Alexander Zverev on Friday.
Zverev leads their head-to-head 4-2. However, Auger-Aliassime has won two of the last three meetings, including the most recent clash earlier this year at the ATP Cup. The German won their lone match on clay, although that was their first ever meeting way back in 2019 in Monte Carlo.
Dabrowski into final
At least one Canadian will be gunning for a trophy in Madrid, as Gabriela Dabrowski advanced to the women’s doubles final with a three-set win over Jelena Ostapenko and Lyudmila Kichenok earlier on Thursday.
Along with partner Giuliana Olmos, Dabrowski was forced to battle back after a late break cost the pair the opening set. But they caught fire in the second on their way to a 5-7, 6-1, 10-6 victory.
The pair were broken for the only time in the match as they served to stay in the opening set at 5-6. However, the Canadian-Mexican duo quickly put it behind them, winning six straight games after their opponents held serve to open the second set, forcing a match tiebreak.
Dabrowski and Olmos quickly took a stranglehold on the decider, rushing out to a 5-0 lead that proved insurmountable as they hung on to reach the final.
It will be the Canadian’s third Madrid final in a row, but she is still looking for her first title in the Spanish capital having lost in the 2019 and 2021 title matches (the 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
They will have to wait to learn their opponents as one quarter-final still has to be played before the other semi-final. However, they are guaranteed a seeded opponent as top seeds Storm Sanders and Shuai Zhang await the winner between the third and fifth seeded pairs in the semis.
Auger-Aliassime was supposed to be competing later in the day in doubles with Grigor Dimitrov, but withdrew prior to the second-round match.