Canada’s Auger-Aliassime advances to quarterfinals at Australian Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada celebrates after defeating Marin Cilic of Croatia in their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (Simon Baker/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied from a set down, overcame a crucial set point in the second set, and won two tiebreaks to defeat Marin Cilic in the fourth round of the Australian Open Monday.

Auger-Aliassime of Montreal bounced back from a poor opening set to defeat the No. 27 seed Cilic 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, 7-6(4) to advance to the quarterfinal at Melbourne Park.

Ranked ninth, Auger-Aliassime became the second Canadian to reach the quarterfinal after Denis Shapovalov punched his ticket with an upset victory over Alexander Zverev on Sunday. Shapovalov takes on Rafael Nadal next.

The 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime will face second-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the next round, with a place in the semifinal on the line.

It was quite the turn of events for the Canadian, who appeared destined for a tournament exit after looking tentative and unconvincing in a quick 36-minute first set, where Cilic fully dictated the pace of play.

But Auger-Aliassime regained his composure after showing signs of frustration. He played less defensively and challenged Cilic more as the match — which lasted three hours 35 minutes — went on.

Exactly three hours after losing the first set, Auger-Aliassime fired a forehand winner, then an ace — his 22nd of the match — on match point in the fourth-set tiebreak. He threw his arms up in reserved celebration.

It was the first victory of Auger-Aliassime’s career against Cilic after dropping the first three encounters, including the Stuttgart Open final last June.

Sunday’s fourth set was fairly straightforward, with both players holding serve until the tiebreak. Cilic was broken on the first point of the tiebreak, and the Canadian went on to serve out for the win.

Auger-Aliassime double-faulted just four times in the match. He hit 38 winners and made 31 unforced errors.

The third set mirrored the opener as Auger-Aliassime this time controlled play with five aces, no double faults and 10 winners. He needed just 39 minutes to win the set.

Each player held serve in the second set until the tiebreak, with Auger-Aliassime failing to convert on three set-point opportunities in the 10th game up 5-4.

In the tiebreak, the Canadian fought off a dramatic set point of his own down 6-5 with an ace — one of his seven aces in the set. He would have been down 2-0 heading into a third set.

Cilic broke Auger-Aliassime twice in the lightning-fast opening set. The Canadian played deep behind the baseline and could not find an answer to Cilic’s service game and aggressive rallies. The Croatian player had 14 winners to Auger-Aliassime’s four.

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