Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Revenge is a dish best served baking in the Australian summer sun. At least it is for Félix Auger-Aliassime.
The Canadian is through to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open for the first time in his career following a comeback win against Marin Cilic on Monday in Melbourne.
After the Croatian started out blasting the ball, Auger-Aliassime took his opponent’s best punches and stayed standing, eventually seizing control and powering into the last eight 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, 7-6(4) win.
Auger-Aliassime had been 0-3 against Cilic heading into the fourth-round clash. The win was his second in a row against an opponent who beat him in a final in 2021, having beaten Dan Evans two days ago.
Next, to reach his second Grand Slam semi-final, he could have another chance at revenge against the man who beat him in his first, Daniil Medvedev.
Despite Cilic hitting significantly more winners, 61 to 38, the 2018 Australian Open runner-up also hit nearly twice as many errors as his young Canadian opponent. Both men won 86 percent of their first serve points, but Auger-Aliassime took advantage when his opponent missed his first delivery, winning 55 percent of Cilic’s second serve points.
Overall, it was a serving clinic from the Canadian, who did not face a break point after the first set.
Cilic came out of the gate guns blazing, breaking Auger-Aliassime in the third game and striking 14 winners in a 35-minute opening set.
As the second set went along, Cilic began to cool off, allowing Auger-Aliassime to find a rhythm. All four break points in the set belong to the Canadian, including three set points as Cilic served at 4-5, but he was unable to convert.
After falling behind in the tiebreak and then saving a set point with an ace, Auger-Aliassime finally levelled the match on his fifth set point with a huge serve that his opponent couldn’t handle.
The momentum was really started to build behind Auger-Aliassime early in the third set. Cilic’s level continued to decline and in the third game of the set, he kept opening the door for the Canadian by failing to close out the game with errors.
Eventually, on his sixth break point of the game and 12th in the match, Auger-Aliassime ripped a huge return that clipped the baseline to seal the break. That fully shifted the momentum to the Canadian, who added another break as he raced to a two-sets-to-one lead.
Two break points in the first game of the fourth set for Auger-Aliassime, both saved by the Croatian, were the only chances either man had on return in the set. On the first point of the tiebreak, Cilic mishit a backhand and that was all the Canadian needed. Auger-Aliassime won all six of his service points in the breaker, closing out the win with an ace.
For just the second time in the Open Era, and second time in the last three majors, there are two Canadian men in the quarter-finals of the singles at a Grand Slam event.
Auger-Aliassime joins Denis Shapovalov in the last eight, who also will have his hands full with a big-time opponent. Shapovalov is taking on 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on Monday night (Canadian time) as he looks to reach his second major semi-final.
Auger-Aliassime will play his quarter-final, either against Medvedev or Maxime Cressy, Wednesday in Melbourne, late Tuesday in Canada.