Canadian young gun, Felix Auger-Aliassime seeks his second semi-final of the season when he faces Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene in Rotterdam on Friday.
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Aljaz Bedene is live from Rotterdam from 2:30pm local time/ 1:30pm GMT
It has been a mixed start to the season for Auger-Aliassime, but the 19-year-old produced arguably his best match of the year to take down former world No. 3, Grigor Dimitrov and reach the Rotterdam quarter finals on Thursday.
The Canadian had looked shaky on serve at times during his opening match over Jan-Lennard Struff, sending down seven double faults in a 6-3 1-6 6-3 victory, but he was a lot more assured against Dimitrov, powering to a 6-4 6-2 victory for his second win in two career matches against the Bulgarian.
Auger-Aliassime served three double faults on the day, but he won over 70% of points on both his first and second serves, saving two of the three break points he faced. The world No. 21 closed out the match with 10 straight points, romping victory after an hour and 18 minutes.
“It was for sure the best match I’ve played so far this year. It was so complete from start to finish,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was an almost perfect match. To dictate most of the points, serve well and return well, I’m very happy.”
Auger-Aliassime stays on course for his maiden tour-level title after falling just short of the milestone in a breakthrough 2019. Ranked outside the top-100 at the start of last season, the Canadian shot up the rankings in a superb year, peaking inside the top 20 after reaching finals in Rio, Lyon and Stuttgart, and a big Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami.
He opened his 2020 season with an ordinary 1-3 record at the ATP Cup, followed by a semi-final showing in Adelaide (lost to Andrey Rublev). He then suffered a first round loss to Ernests Gulbis at the Australian Open, and a second round exit to Pierre-Hugues Herbert in Montpellier, but he’s put together a run in Rotterdam and will attempt to keep it going when he confronts Aljaz Bedene in the quarter finals on Thursday.
Bedene scored just the second top-ten win of his career on Thursday when he took down second seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the quarter finals.
The Slovenian had to weather some early adversity against Tsitsipas, saving five break points within the first eight games of the match, but he reaped the rewards of his diligence later in the set, winning 11 straight points to charge to a one-set lead. The world No. 52 nabbed an early break in the third game of the second set, and never let go of that advantage, closing out a fine 7-5 6-4 victory after an hour and 33 minutes.
Bedene has now reached his second quarter final of the season, having also made the last eight in his opening event of the year in Doha. He couldn’t quite build on that early promise, suffering first round defeats in Adelaide and Montpellier either side of a second round exit at the Australian Open. He’s however put together two excellent wins in Rotterdam, taking out Benoit Paire 6-2 6-4 in the opening round before Thursday’s victory over Tsitsipas.
Bedene has had an unbroken spell inside the top-100 since March 2017, peaking at a career-high No. 43 in February 2018. His top-100 run came under some duress when he slipped to 97th in May last year, but he put together a few strong weeks in the second half of the season to get himself back up to a year-end ranking of 58th. His best result from 2019 was a runner-up finish in Metz (lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga), while he made a semi-final in Rio, and quarter finals in Cordoba, Umag and Vienna. He also won a Challenger title in Portoroz.
Bedene did an excellent job of merging aggression with solidity in his Rotterdam victory over Tsitsipas on Thursday, and if he can reproduce that level against Auger-Aliassime, he will cause the Canadian plenty of problems.
I think he’ll need some help from Auger-Aliassime though. The Canadian was brilliant against Dimitrov, and if he has a good serving day, the rest of his game should follow suit, and lead him into the Rotterdam semi-finals.