Félix Auger-Aliassime bounced from Rogers Cup

Félix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in action against Karen Khachanov of Russia during their round of 16 match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, 08 August 2019. EPA/VALERIE BLUM

Félix Auger-Aliassime’s Rogers Cup run is over.

No. 6 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia defeated the Montreal teenager 6-7 (7), 7-5, 6-3 in third-round action at a windy and raucous IGA Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

A rising star celebrating his 19th birthday, Auger-Aliassime pushed ahead early, but was undone by 12 double faults and a series of mistakes at key times.

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“For sure frustrated because it was a big occasion,” he said. “There was a lot of expectations, pressure, you name it.

“It’s tough to see it slip away, but there’s reason for that. It just means that I still have things to improve to win these type of matches and to deal better with these type of moments.”

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Victorious in just six total matches prior to 2019, the world’s 21st-ranked player and last remaining Canadian in the men’s bracket has made three finals since February, but is still looking for his first title.

Khachanov, meanwhile, now turns his attention to the quarterfinals, where he will meet No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev after the German advanced with a 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (5) decision over Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.

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In front of a decidedly partisan gathering Thursday, Auger-Aliassime won a sloppy first set in gusty conditions that saw both players broken twice and commit a number of unforced errors.

Tied 7-7 in the tiebreak, Khachanov sent a shot into the net on serve and then fired another ball over the second deck and out of the venue in frustration at the crowd cheering his mistakes, which led to loud boos.

“I cannot deny that I got a little bit crazy,” said the Russian. “But I’m really a bit disappointed … with the crowd as well. I don’t have anything against when they cheer for Felix. It’s normal. He’s the home favourite, especially from Montreal.

“I wish they could cheer the same way in Russia for me,” Khachanov, 23, added with a smile. “But still, not when I miss or not wishing me to miss, screaming during the points. It’s disrespectful.”

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Quebec teen tennis sensation is fan favorite at Rogers Cup

Auger-Aliassime sealed the set on his next serve, much to the delight of his adoring fans.

“It was pretty amazing,” the 19-year-old said of playing on centre court in his hometown. “From the first practice I had here, then all the way to this match today was just crazy. It really is a dream come true.

“The atmosphere in the tiebreak of the first set, at the end of the first set, was pretty surreal. I’ll for sure keep great memories of that.”

After three breaks apiece in the second set, Khachanov broke the Canadian for a fourth time to secure a 7-5 decision that evened the match.

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Khachanov, ranked No. 8 in the world, broke Auger-Aliassime again to go up 3-1 in the third set.

The crowd favourite battled back to make it 4-2 as fans chanted his name, but Khachanov held serve despite going down 0-30 in the final game to seal the match in two hours 50 minutes.

The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Auger-Aliassime after the competitors shook hands before a video featuring fellow pros — including Khachanov – also passing on their greetings was played on the big screens.

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Auger-Aliassime, who started the year ranked 108th, advanced to Thursday’s round of 16 after victories in all-Canadian matchups with Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont.

Pospisil gave the teen all he could handle in the first round before Auger-Aliassime advanced following a third-set tiebreak at the US$5.7-million ATP Tour Masters 1000 series event.

Raonic, the top-ranked Canadian at No. 19, was then forced to retire from their second-round match with things tied at one set apiece because of a back injury on Wednesday night. Raonic, 28, also withdrew from a scheduled semifinal with Auger-Aliassime in Stuttgart in June.

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Top-seed and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, a four-time Rogers Cup champion, was set to take on Argentina’s Guido Pella in Thursday’s evening session.

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The 33-year-old Spaniard won last year’s tournament in Toronto, site of the women’s bracket in 2019.

In other action in Montreal, second-seed Dominic Thiem advanced to the quarters with a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, and No. 8 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia also moved on thanks to a 6-3, 6-3 decision over Chile’s Cristian Garin.

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