Felix Auger-Aliassime is celebrating his hometown return reclaiming valuable real estate.
The 22-year-old Montreal native has owned the service box becoming the first Canadian man to reach National Bank Open quarters since buddy Denis Shapovalov did it in 2017.
In one of his sharpest serving performances of the year, Auger-Aliassime served an eye-popping 85 percent, won 36 of 39 first-serve points and smacked 15 aces against 1 double fault in a 6-3, 6-4 win over ninth-seeded Cameron Norrie on Thursday night.
That comes after Auger-Aliassime’s 17-ace, 1 double-fault serving effort in his 7-6(6), 6-4 win over Washington, DC finalist Yoshihito Nishioka in his Montreal opener.
Auger-Aliassime says imposing serving frees him up to take more risk on return.
“For sure it loosens me up a lot for the other areas of my game,” Auger-Aliassime told the media in Montreal. “I mean, on the return, for instance, I can try more things, change my position, try to let’s say risk a bit more, then I got rewarded at times. That’s something positive.
“When you’re serving well, you put the pressure on your opponent. As we saw at the end of the match, of course I got a bit lucky. He can hit double-faults, but I’ve never seen him hit three double-faults in a game like that. That was a bit fortunate, especially at that time in the match.”
Auger-Aliassime is currently fourth on the ATP Tour in aces behind only powerful point detonators John Isner, Reilly Opelka and Maxime Cressy. He’s serving with more precision these days, minimizing double faults and thumping serves close to the lines at critical stages.
Roland Garros finalist Casper Ruud faces Auger-Aliassime for a semifinal spot in Montreal. Ruud, who is highly skilled using his kick serve to displace opponents to set up first-strike forehands, is eighth on the ATP Tour in service games held this season, which puts him seven spots ahead of Auger-Aliassime in that category.
Playing for his second Masters 1000 semifinal, Auger-Aliassime believes when he’s serving his best, he can disarm opponents.
“Of course, when you play big servers, not like me, but Isner, Opelka, some of these guys, Milos when he was playing at his peak, it’s tough, puts a lot of pressure on the opponents,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I’m glad I was able to do that. I feel like I’m one of those guys now that can serve that well. Hopefully I can keep it up.”
Photo credit: Christopher Levy