Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
A quarter-finals matchup against top-seed and familiar foe Stefanos Tsitsipas proved a step too far for Félix Auger-Aliassime as he was knocked out of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC thanks to a tough 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 loss to the impressive Greek.
Entering this match, the duo’s head-to-head record in the pros was dead level at 2-2, while Auger-Aliassime had the upper hand in juniors, winning all three of their matches. Tsitsipas had won the most recent two meetings, though, claiming victories at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Shanghai in 2019 and in Marseille, France last year.
The Greek had seen off the challenge of France’s Benoit Paire and big-serving John Isner of the United States on his way to the final eight, while Auger-Aliassime – seeded seventh – was fresh from successive victories over American opponents in Tennys Sandgren and Sebastian Korda.
The Montrealer came out of the gates at breakneck speed in this match, which was played on a warm, 24-degree Acapulco evening. On Tsitsipas’ first service game, the Canadian forged a 15:40 lead and sealed the break with a powerful forehand return which put the Greek on his heels and forced him to hit into the net. The lead didn’t last long, however, as Tsitsipas broke back thanks to a stunning forehand, cross-court winner at 0:40 to level the set at 3-3.
The impetus was teetering one way and then the other as the first set went on. Down 6-5, Auger-Aliassime was serving to stay in it but dug himself into a hole and a 0:40 deficit. A player of Tsitsipas’ quality wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity as he converted the first of his three break points to wrap up the set 7-5, much to the delight of a small Greek contingent in the reduced-capacity crowd.
The second set started well for Auger-Aliassime, who held his first service game despite late pressure from Tsitsipas before breaking the 22-year-old to take a 1-2* lead. The Canadian had seemingly found his groove, typified by an intelligently disguised drop shot in the next game which signalled he was playing with renewed confidence. And he would continue to ride that momentum on his way to clinching the set 6-4 and forcing a deciding third.
The third set remained on serve until an eight-point winning streak for Tsitsipas saw him gain a 5-3 advantage and the chance to serve for the match. It was an opportunity he wouldn’t pass up as the Greek clinched victory thanks to a thunderous forehand, which Auger-Aliassime could only return into the net and out of play.
Waiting in the final four for Tsitsipas is a clash with Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti, while Alexander Zverev – seeded second – and fellow German Dominik Koepfer will contest the other semi-final.