|Photo: Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

There must be something in the Lyon air.

Félix Auger-Aliassime is through to the semi-finals of the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in Lyon following a hard-fought 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Steve Johnson. Auger-Aliassime is a two-time champion at the Lyon Challenger held in June each year, becoming the youngest player ever to defend an ATP Challenger Tour title just last year – and clearly the courts and conditions are favorable to the 18-year-old’s game.

The match was played primarily on Auger-Aliassime’s terms, as the Canadian targeted his groundstrokes to the vulnerable Johnson backhand, approaching the net whenever he could to put away the American’s sliced replies to unrelenting pressure. Auger-Aliassime put on a serving masterclass to seal the first, dropping just three points on serve to move just one set away from victory.

The second set appeared to be following a similar script as Auger-Aliassime raced ahead to a 30-0 lead in his first service game before throwing in several unforced errors to lose 10 of the next 12 points. With the momentum firmly in Johnson’s favour, the No. 4 seed would struggle to reign in his game, quickly seeing the match go into a third and decisive set.

Auger-Aliassime has made a habit of winning on clay (and, as we know, especially clay in Lyon) and early on in the third appeared to find the discipline he had relinquished in the previous set. Breaking Johnson in the third game with a stunning forehand passing shot, the Montreal native would secure a second break two games later, all but ensuring victory given the quality of his serve in the final set.

Photo: Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

One last twist of fate came as Auger-Aliassime ominously broke a string serving for the match at 5-2, which derailed his momentum as he dropped serve to give his unseeded American opponent a lifeline. Yet serving once again at 5-4, Auger-Aliassime wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. With rocket serves and explosive forehands, the 18-year-old would claim victory – and a spot in the semi-finals – after two hours, one minute of play.

Can Auger-Aliassime overcome the tournament’s top seed in the next round for a chance at his first ATP Tour title on Saturday? Tune in on Tennis TV tomorrow around 10am to watch.

(Feature photo: Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)