Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Félix Auger-Aliassime is off to the finals of the Madrid Open after opponent Jiri Lehecka was forced to retire just six games into their match.

It was a sad and anti-climactic finish to what had been a well anticipated semifinal.

The showdown began competitively with both players imposing their heavy groundstrokes, and Lehecka escaping early trouble in the third game, saving a break point chance to hold for a 2-1 lead.

However, at 3-2 in the opening set, a sudden movement left Lehecka wincing in pain. The Czechian left the court for physio treatment at 3-3 but was unable to continue, halting the match just three points later due to his back injury.

Photo/ATP Tour

It’s a maiden ATP Masters 1000 final for the Canadian, who also advanced through the quarter-finals via walkover from Jannik Sinner, and received an earlier retirement from Jakub Mensik in the third round.

The Montreal native is just the third Canadian in singles history to reach a Masters 1000 final, joining Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov.

He will face a familiar foe in Sunday’s championship match as he challenges world number eight, Andrey Rublev.

The pair have met five times, with Rublev holding a 4-1 edge in the head-to-head, though many of the encounters have been close.

In their most recent meeting in Rotterdam earlier this season, the Russian saved three match points before overcoming the Canadian 3-6, 7-6, 7-5.

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It’s also only their second ever matchup on clay; Rublev triumphed on the surface 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in Umag in their first career meeting in 2018.

Despite lacking match play the last two rounds, Auger-Aliassime has shown a major surge in form in the Spanish capital the past two weeks.

He earned his best career win on clay in the round of 16, defeating three-time Grand Slam finalist Casper Ruud in straight sets. He also rallied for a hard fought win over Yoshihito Nishioka in his first match, and ousted world number 20 Adrian Mannarino 6-0, 6-4 in the round of 64.

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The 23-year-old will contest his 15th career ATP final and first of 2024. Auger-Aliassime’s last singles victory came in October at the Swiss Indoors in Basel.