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Montreal's Auger-Aliassime scores huge win with upset of idol Federer

"It was a huge honour to play him before he retired," Auger-Aliassime says. "And to beat him is something amazing that I will always cherish.”

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Montrealer Félix Auger-Aliassime posted one of the biggest wins of his tennis career Wednesday when he upset former No. 1 Roger Federer 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the round of 16 of the Noventi Halle Open grass-court event in Germany.

“It’s an amazing win, and I for sure didn’t expect this,” a grinning Auger-Aliassime said in an on-court interview. “You come into the match wanting to win, but Roger was my idol, like many of us growing up. It was a huge honour to play him before he retired, and to beat him is something amazing that I will always cherish.”

Federer, a 10-time winner at Halle, was playing against the 20-year-old for the first time. The pair share the same birthday, Aug. 8, but are separated by 19 years — the biggest age difference in Federer’s 1,521 career matches. Federer has served as a mentor to the Canadian on several occasions, inviting him to his home in Dubai for off-season training sessions.

Auger-Aliassime will next face American qualifier Marcos Giron.

Federer controlled the rallies in the opening set, drawing Auger-Aliassime in with smart approach shots and passing him at the net. The native of Switzerland converted his lone break opportunity with a blazing backhand down the line at 4-3, and comfortably closed out the set.

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Félix Auger-Aliassime plays a backhand in his match against Roger Federer at the Noventi Open on June 16, 2021, in Halle, Germany.
Félix Auger-Aliassime plays a backhand in his match against Roger Federer at the Noventi Open on June 16, 2021, in Halle, Germany. Photo by Thomas F. Starke /Getty Images

Auger-Aliassime changed his tactics in the second set to target Federer’s backhand with his strong serves. The Canadian earned attackable chip returns and had Federer under pressure, creating five break points across two games as a result and converting one for a 4-2 lead.

Auger-Aliassime continued his charge into the third set, taking advantage of a dip in Federer’s first-serve percentage — from 73 per cent of first serves in the first set to 58 per cent in the third — to go up a double break. The Montrealer, who only faced one break point in the match, opened up a 4-0 lead and closed out the victory in one hour, 45 minutes.

“I was a little bit (nervous), but I was playing really well. I was serving well and protecting my serve. I know I served amazingly in the third set,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was tough in the first set. I thought I was playing so good, as good as I can play, and I lost 6-4. I was (thinking), when he was in his prime and No. 1 in the world, that must have been scary.

“But I still believed in my chances, and I wanted to see what I could do further in the match. And it went my way, so it’s really great.”

phickey@postmedia.com

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