Nationalbank Open: Felix Auger-Aliassime eliminated


Felix Auger-Aliassime was standing at the back of the hard court at the IGA Stadium with a hand on his hip and an astonished expression on his face.

Casper Ruud managed to get his racquet in an overhead smash against the Canadian late Friday in the quarterfinals, with the return hovering over Auger-Aliassime’s head and inside the baseline.

Auger-Aliassime climbed back but his shot hit the net. Nothing worked for him that day — not even the tennis equivalent of a slam dunk — in a 6-1, 6-2 win that lasted just 74 minutes.

“(My) first two games were good, some positive things,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I never thought it would end like this today.”

Sixth-seeded Auger-Aliassime came into play this week without dropping a set, but he came out flat on an overcast afternoon. Ruud, the No. 4 from Norway, completed the first set in a brisk 36 minutes, taking the partisan crowd out of the game.

Montreal’s Auger-Aliassime had 21 unforced errors to just eight for Ruud, who reached his third Masters 1000 semifinal of the season.

“It was a perfect day for me in the office,” said Ruud.

Ruud, who will next face Poland No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz, who won 7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-1 over Nick Kyrgios.

Auger-Aliassime was hoping to become the first Canadian to reach the semifinals at this ATP Tour event since Denis Shapovalov in 2017. The last Canadian to win this tournament was Robert Bedard in 1958.

“It’s super disappointing to lose a tournament like this and especially here,” said Auger-Aliassime.

Unseeded players should play in the evening’s quarterfinals. American Tommy Paul faced Britain’s Daniel Evans and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta faced British qualifier Jack Draper.

Auger-Aliassime failed to get on the track despite regular urging from the near-sold-out crowd. He fired more shots than usual and his mistakes came at critical times.

Using a powerful forehand and an effective two-handed backhand, Ruud was clinical and relentless with pressure in his attack. Forced to heel, Auger-Aliassime had to settle for a defensive style.

The Canadian gave up two quick breaks in set number two before finally holding to go 1-4.

“Losing my service straight away, then another… from Drei-Liebe really felt like the worst possible result today,” Auger-Aliassime said. “At this point it gets really tough.

“I tried my best but he also got more comfortable and confident, so then it gets a lot harder.”

Earlier in the day, Hurkacz took advantage of two double faults from Kyrgios early in the third set for their game’s first break of serve. He rolled from there to end the Australian’s nine-game winning streak.

“Nick is a great opponent, he can take every single shot,” said Hurkacz. “He doesn’t really have many weaknesses, if any. I was just trying to serve (well) and stay aggressive.”

There was no wasted energy from Kyrgios playing as if a taxi had been waiting outside the venue.

He usually only bounced the ball once and went straight into his serving motion. The pace of play matched Hurkacz, a 1m80 right-hander who could keep up with the Aussie’s power play.

Both players had break chances, but tiebreaks were needed to decide the first two sets.

Kyrgios, who defeated defending champion and world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in the second round, slowed in the third set and his serve lost some momentum.

“I’m not a machine, I’m a human,” said Kyrgios. “My knees hurt, my back hurt, my stomach (area) hurt. I tried to keep moving but I just stiffened.”

Kyrgios started with wins in 15 of his last 16 games, with Novak Djokovic suffering the only loss in last month’s Wimbledon final.

The semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday and the finals of the $6.57 million tournament will take place on Sunday. The winner will receive just over $915,000.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 12, 2022.