And just like that, three of the eight quarter-final spots at the Open 13 in Marseilles, France belong to Canadians.
Félix Auger-Aliassime dominated Pierre-Hughes Herbert in the first set and held on for a 6-0, 6-7(6), 7-6(9) victory, earning him a berth in the tournament’s quarter-finals on Thursday.
Félix Auger-Aliassime gets his revenge! He defeats his Montpellier conquerer of two weeks prior – Pierre-Hugues Herbert – 6-0, 6-7(6), 7-6(9) to reach the quarter-finals of the @Open13.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) February 20, 2020
The 19-year-old Canadian put on a clinic in the opener, holding all three of his service games and breaking all three of his opponent’s in perhaps the tidiest set he’s played all year.
He won three of his four break point opportunities and didn’t give Herbert a single one back.
Auger-Aliassime made a few fantastic shots in the set, including this superb forehand winner that just caught the outside of the line. He just couldn’t miss in the first set.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) February 20, 2020
It looked like the Canadian was going to make quick work of his French opponent, but the rest of the match told a different story.
The second set was a lot closer, with a favourable crowd getting behind Herbert as he clawed back into the match.
Both players held their serve right up until the tiebreak, with not a single break point given either way.
But it was Herbert who dug deep in the tiebreak, winning some important points on Auger-Aliassime’s serve and invigorating the crowd with some excellent serves of his own.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 20, 2020
And so, just like countryman Denis Shapovalov earlier in the day, Auger-Aliassime was forced into a decisive third set with a quarter-finals berth on the line.
The final set was much of the same, with neither player giving and inch. The way the two players were serving, it seemed like another tiebreak would be inevitable.
Auger-Aliassime had an excellent opportunity with Herbert serving down 5-4, but he couldn’t capitalize on three match points to close it out. And so onto another tiebreak they went.
And it was an excellent one, with the two players going back and forth, each staving off match points and no one able to find an advantage. It wasn’t until a Herbert double fault that Auger-Aliassime eventually got the opportunity he needed up 10-9 with two serves.
Finally, after 2:40 on the court, the Canadian ousted the Frenchman, blasting an ace into the corner to seal the victory and earn a spot in the quarter-finals.
When all was said and done, Auger-Aliassime saved three match points, while his opponent saved four. It was a toss-up from the second set onwards, but the victory is what counts for the Montreal native.
He now marches on to the quarter-finals, where he’ll face the winner of third seed David Goffin and Egor Gerasimov on Friday.
Shapovalov breaks the slump
Shapovalov also won on Thursday, bouncing back from an early exit in Rotterdam and serving 17 aces en route to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over Marin Cilic in his first Open 13 match.
After getting a bye to the last 16 and an extra few days of rest, Shapo was ready right from the first set.
— Open 13 Provence (@Open13) February 20, 2020
He broke Cilic’s second service game and held all of his own, opening up a 5-4 lead and an opportunity to serve for the set.
The World No. 15 didn’t make it easy for himself though, surrendering four break points in a row. But he rose to the challenge, staving off all four and finally sealing the set after four deuces.
It was a great showing of resilience from Shapovalov, but former Grand Slam champion Cilic wouldn’t go away easily.
Neither player gave an inch in the second stanza, holding serve through the first nine service games. That gave Cilic a 5-4 lead with Shapovalov on serve.
But the 20-year-old Canadian couldn’t produce the same magic he did in the first set, being broken by his Croatian opponent to force a decisive third set.
In the all-important final set, it was Shapovalov who wouldn’t be denied. He set the tone early, and won the first four points of the set, all on Cilic’s serve.
It was a quick break and ultimately all the Canadian would need. But he broke Cilic once more, again in just four shots, later in the set.
That's the way, Shapo!@denis_shapo moves into the quarters in Marseille, with a 6-4 4-6 6-2 triumph over Cilic 💥
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 20, 2020
Shapovalov won four straight points on his opponent’s serve twice in the same set, which is as close to a recipe for success as you’ll get.
And, for good measure, he won four straight points on serve up 5-2 to seal the impressive victory.
With the win, Shapovalov reaches his first quarter-final round since the ASB Classic in New Zealand in January.
It’s the second time he’s beaten Cilic in three tries; the Canadian got the better of the Croatian at the Indian Wells Masters last March.
Shapovalov now marches on to Alexander Bublik in the quarter-finals, who is fresh off an upset against tournament No. 6 seed Benoit Paire.
With fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil on the same half of the draw, it would take just one more win each for an all-Canadian semi-final on Saturday.
Pospisil needs to get through No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas first, who won the tournament last year.
Pospisil and Shapovalov are familiar with each other on the court, as they’ve faced off twice in the past month and a half.
Shapo got the better of Pospisil in New Zealand last month, and Pospisil returned the favour by winning in similar fashion at the Open Sud de France in early February.
Both players will take the court for their respective quarter-final matchups on Friday morning.
(Feature image: Open 13)