Photo : sportsnet.ca
Coming into the grass season, Felix Auger-Aliassime failed to reach the semi-final stage since reaching back-to-back ATP finals in Rotterdam and Marseille. During the stretch from late February to early June, he had an 11-9 record with four quarter-final losses at the Barcelona, Estoril, Madrid, and Italian Opens.
That changed the moment the Canadian set foot on the lawns in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. He has reached the semis or better in four of the six tournaments he’s played on grass and by defeating Karen Khachanov 7-6(5) 6-4 in the Libema Open quarterfinals, he reached a fifth tour-level semi-final on grass. His overall record on the surface now stands at 20-6.
In the first set, Auger-Aliassime started to put pressure on the Khachanov serve immediately. The 21-year-old held 15-30 or 0-30 advantages in each of his first three return games but failed to generate a break point opportunity.
Then at 3-3, it was Khachanov who earned the first break of the match. Auger-Aliassime played a poor service game with two double-faults and two forehand errors to be broken at love. In his first three service games combined he had only lost four points.
Serving for the opening set at 5-4, the Russian played a poor service game of his own. A wild cross-court backhand evened the set at five games apiece.
In the tie-break, Auger-Aliassime hit an ace down the T to bring up triple set point, 6-3, and sealed the breaker 7-5 with an unreturned serve into the body.
In the second set, Auger-Aliassime broke in the seventh game and avoided the break back by saving two break points in the eighth game to take control 5-3.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Khachanov extended the game to deuce, but Auger-Aliassime closed strong with back-to-back solid first serves. Overall, he won 85 percent of first-serve points with eight aces.
Next up he will face 205th ranked wild card Tim Van Rijthoven for a spot in the Libema Open finals.
Meanwhile, with the defeat, Khachanov has now lost 19 straight matches against top 10 adversaries dating back to 2019.