Felix Auger-Aliassime walks onto the court.

Photo : Mauricio Paiz

In what will surely be one of the more memorable matches in his career, Félix Auger-Aliassime accomplished the rare feat of twice saving triple match point in defeating Tommy Paul 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) in the round-of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday night.

The No. 8 seeded Canadian had a poor start in the opening set but gradually began to impose his more powerful baseline game and timely serving.

From one-way traffic in the No. 19-ranked American’s favour, Auger-Aliassime came on in the second set and finally gained an edge by breaking serve to 5-3. When he then served out to love, all bets were off as to who would emerge the winner.

Felix Auger-Aliassime winds up to hit a slice backhand.
Photo : Mauricio Paiz

The third set almost got away when Paul broke to 2-0, after an awful game by Auger-Aliassime, and then stretched his lead to 3-0 and even had deuce twice in the following game to possibly put the match out of reach for good. But Auger-Aliassime held serve to 3-1 and broke back to 3-2 and leveled at 3-all with the match whirling into what would become the madcap mania of its climax.

Shouts of “USA, USA” and “Let’s go Felix” ping-ponged back-and forth as the highly-engaged Stadium 2 spectators got into it in what Auger-Aliassime later described as 50-50 partisanship.

Serving at 5-6, he trailed love-40 – triple match point – but stayed strong to dominate rallies and draw errors from Paul.

Then in the tiebreak, things went haywire again as Auger-Aliassime led 3-1 only to have Paul turn it around and win five points in a row to set up triple match point for a second time. At that critical juncture, the Auger-Aliassime serve – a definite advantage he held over Paul all night – came to the fore. He saved the first two match points with service winners and then got an forehand error from Paul to level at 6-all.

A relieved Auger-Aliassme had to be feeling bullet proof and the final two points were not entirely unexpected from a star-crossed Paul – a backhand error followed by a forehand error. It was well after midnight and the match duration Rolex clock on court read two hours and 44 minutes.

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Tommy Paul embrace at the end.

Early on, Paul had been more efficient and opportunistic but when Auger-Aliassime finally dialed in during the second set his superior firepower showed – often in points that began with backhand-to-backhand rallies.

The final stats indicated where the bigger shots were coming from – Auger-Aliassime had 31 winners / 51 unforced errors while Paul had 13 winners / 33 unforced errors.

Felix Auger-Aliassime throws his head back and smiles in relief.
Photo : Mauricio Paiz

Auger-Aliassime couldn’t remember ever winning after saving so many match points, and certainly not saving three in a row twice.

“Obviously I’m thrilled to win, and Tommy also deserved to win this match,” he said. “Every thing was going normal, it was a good match. Then at 5-6, love-40, I said to myself, ‘if I can win this first point and then the next and the next,’ I’d have a chance to win. That’s what I did. I’m proud of my effort, proud of my attitude. That really what has gotten me into the next round.”

Deconstructing the match points, the 22-year-old Montrealer said, “the luck that I had was that I served really well on four of the six match points. At 3-6 (in the tiebreak), two service winners. If I had to play a rally in each of the six match points, maybe things wouldn’t be the way they are now. The luck I had was that I served really well when I needed to. Then I played a good rally at 5-6. It’s a funny sport but I’m glad I was strong between the ears.”

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The victory – Auger-Aliassime has now reached six Masters 1000 tournament quarter-finals in a row – sets up a big match-up with world No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz on Thursday.

Auger-Aliassime leads their head-to-head 3-0 – including a win by retirement at the 2021 US Open and two victories in September/October last year at the Davis Cup in Valencia, Spain, four days after the Alcaraz won the US Open, and then indoors in Basel.

“It’s nice to have a record like I do with him before the quarter-final in two days,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But the fact is he’s a very good player and I’ll have to play a lot better than I did today.”

It was 1 a.m. when he finished his press conference with two Canadian journalists. Asked when he expected to fall asleep, he answered, “in a couple of hours. I’ll probably listen to some classical music.”


Gabriela Dabrowski crouches low behind the net to hit a volley over her head.
Photo : Mauricio Paiz

In women’s round-of-16 action on Tuesday, Gabriela Dabrowski and her Brazilian partner Luisa Stefani advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand. They will now face the Japanese/Indonesian pairing of Miya Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi. Kato and Sutjiadi upset the second-seeded Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula 6-4, 4-6, [12-10].

The unseeded pairing of Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov received a walkover in round two of men’s doubles and Wednesday evening will play their quarter-final against Matthew Ebden of Australia and Rohan Bopanna of India.


Eugenie Bouchard argues with the umpire.

Genie Bouchard last played a match on January 9th, losing 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to No. 181 Ashlyn Krueger, 18, of the U.S. in the Australian Open qualifying.

She is tentatively scheduled to return to action, after a knee issue, for the Miami Open qualifying next week. Currently ranked No. 319, Bouchard will use her protected ranking of No. 118 for entry.

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Canada’s Katherine Sebov, who qualified for her first Grand Slam event at the Australian Open, received a wild card into qualifying.

At the top of the list for the qualifying (and very likely to get into the main draw with a player withdrawal) is No. 75-ranked Caty McNally of the U.S. The cut-off for the qualifying will be somewhere around No. 100.