Photo : @MercedesCup
After consecutive first-round losses at the Lyon Open and the French Open, Félix Auger-Aliassime has regained his form in Stuttgart at the MercedesCup.
The MercedesCup, which was originally played on clay, switched to grass in 2015. It could be for the better as the grass surface suits Auger-Aliassime’s powerful game perfectly. The Canadian’s able to dictate plays off of his big serve and his ferocious forehands – which were showcased plenty of times today.
Today’s match was against Ugo Humbert, the World No. 32 of France. The only meeting between the two players before today’s contest was in the third round of Wimbledon in 2019 where Humbert emerged as the 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 winner.
Auger-Aliassime evened out his head-to-head with Humbert after an impressive 7-6(5), 7-6(8) win and advances to the MercedesCup semi-final.
Today’s battle featured a lot of power.
In the first set, the servers prevailed. There wasn’t a single break point opportunity for either of the players – meaning that a first-set tiebreak was needed. Leading up to the tiebreak, Auger-Aliassime won 89 percent of points on first serves and Humbert won a whopping 100 percent of points on first serves.
In the tiebreak, a couple of unforced errors from Humbert, including a double fault, were enough to cost him the first set. Auger-Aliassime took it by a score of 7-6(5).
To no one’s surprise, the second set was once again controlled by the serving players. However, this one had some break point opportunities.
Humbert had a chance in the second and fourth games to break the Canadian but was unsuccessful.
In the seventh game, Auger-Aliassime was up love-40 and had three consecutive break point opportunities. They were all fought off by the Frenchman.
In the 10th game, Auger-Aliassime was facing a set point and managed to save it and extend the set.
Both servers won their following service games and sent the second set to an inevitable tiebreak.
Up 6-3 in the tiebreak, Auger-Aliassime had two chances to serve out the match but was without success. Humbert then had two set points of his own which were both fought off by the ferocious Canadian.
It took Auger-Aliassime’s fourth match point opportunity to seal the deal, but he got the job done and improved his professional record on the grass court to 10-3.
He registered an outstanding 17 aces and won 78 percent of points on both his first and second serves.
Auger-Aliassime will face American Sam Querrey in the semi-final on Saturday.
Shapovalov outserved by Cilic
The dreams of an all-Canadian were dashed in the next match on centre court, as Denis Shapovalov fell in straight sets to Marin Cilic.
Shapovalov, the top seed in Stuttgart, had been forced to finish his second-round match just a few hours earlier.
The Canadian started quickly, but was unable to maintain his level and found himself overpowered by the former Wimbledon runner-up, cracking in the late stages of both sets and falling 7-5, 7-6(3).
Shapovalov only reached break point once in the match on Cilic’s serve, while only saving two of the nine he faced on his own.
Just like his opening match, the top seed wasted no time in seizing the initiative, breaking for a 2-1 lead with a huge backhand return that benefitted from one of those trademark erratic grass court bounces that Cilic could not handle.
Consolidating the break proved challenging, as Cilic started to find his range with his powerful groundstrokes. Shapovalov faced two break points in the next game, saving the first with an ace, but double-faulting on the second to give the break right back.
Cilic continued to wreak havoc with his raw power, setting up another break point at 4-3 by inducing an error, but Shapovalov served his way out, saving it with an ace and eventually closing the game with back-to-back unreturnable serves.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, the Canadian was under pressure again when Cilic teed off on a return to set up double set point.
Shapovalov saved both with some big hitting of his own, but gave Cilic a third opportunity when he missed a backhand wide. The Croatian took advantage, crushing a backhand return to take the opening set.
The Canadian received a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final game of the opening set as his frustration started to boil over.
The second set was a shootout, with the server easily holding serve throughout most of the set.
Once again, the final service game of the set proved troublesome for Shapovalov, who missed an easy midcourt forehand at 30-all to give Cilic match point. A double fault gave the Croat a second chance, but Shapovalov drew an error and held to force a tiebreak.
The pair exchanged early minibreaks before a mishit backhand from Shapovalov gave Cilic the late lead.
The former world No. 3 won the last four points of the tiebreak in a row to wrap up the straight sets win, finishing with a forehand winner.
Serve proved to be the difference, as Shapovalov had seven double faults to only six aces and won a mere 47 percent of his second serve points. Cilic, on the other hand, had seven aces and won 86 percent of his first serve points.