Milestone Victory Gives Auger-Aliassime Much To Celebrate

Felix Auger-Aliassime (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Felix Auger-Aliassime had much to celebrate Monday evening at the Wimbledon Championships. After all, the likable 20-year-old Canadian from Montreal had reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal following his 6-4, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 epic victory over No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev on No. 1 Court that lasted four hours and two minutes.

Auger-Aliassime fell to his knees in jubilation after securing match point against the World No. 6 Zverev. Not only had he become the fifth Canadian to reach the last eight at Wimbledon, his triumph also advanced him to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. The crowd loved his performance.

“It’s a dream come true, it’s unbelievable. You dream of moments likes this as a kid,” said the teenager, in just his ninth Grand Slam main draw. “I’m a normal guy from Montreal, Canada. Here I am. No. 1 Court, packed, Wimbledon. Surely the best victory of my life. It was extra special in front of you. 

“With the roof closed the sound was crazy, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. So, thank you, thank you so much for living this moment with me.”

Auger-Aliassime’s comments were met with wild applause.

When he was asked how hard or easy it was to keep his belief in himself in such difficult circumstances, Auger-Aliassime said: “It was super difficult. The story is I’ve never beaten Alex before. He’s such a great player, I’d always struggled against him, never won a set.

“After two sets to love I had belief, then he started playing better, serving better, things got really difficult when he came back from that break in the fifth set. I really had to dig deep. Again, you guys helped me do that because alone it would have been way tougher. So, thank you. …

“Now, I get to play another round. That’s always good.”

Later, during his post-match press conference, Auger-Aliassime spoke further about his milestone victory: “My celebration was very honest and genuine. It’s a big milestone for me in my young career. You want to play well in the Grand Slams, especially here being my favorite tournament. Also, the way it happened, there were so many ups and downs. … Coming back to the win the first two [sets], losing the next two, then struggling to finish in the fifth. This match had everything. I had to dig deep physically and mentally. So, of course, it makes it even sweeter.”

The No. 16 seed Auger-Aliassime will face No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy. The two are best of friends, who have been watching the Euro 2020 football matches together on TV through the Wimbledon fortnight.

“I think it’s good to get to play each other,” Auger-Aliassime said. “We both have had a great tournament so far. We’ll try to leave it all out there, and it’s going to be good.”

First, there was Asbóth, now there’s Fucsovics

It’s been 73 years since there was a Hungarian quarterfinalist at Wimbledon. You have to go all the way back to 1948 with Jószef Asbóth to find the last time a Hungarian man went to the last eight at the All England Club. That ended on Monday when Marton Fucsovics, ranked 48th, defeated his on-court nemesis, Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-9, 6-3 in two hours and 41 minute on No. 2 Court.

What is significant is that Fucsovics had lost to Rublev three previous times this year – in Rotterdam, Dubai and Miami.

“I was not thinking about the previous matches [with Rublev],” Fucsovics said in press. “This one was a different match. We played on grass. I really like the surface. I think my game fits the surface very well.

“I think I will become famous now in Hungary. It’s a big thing, huge thing. But for the moment I’m not thinking about what will happen in Hungary, if I will be in the news or if people will talk about me.”

Next, Fucsovics, who won the 2010 Wimbledon boys’ title, will play No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinal round.

Confidence-building fortnight for Berrettini 

Matteo Berrettini of Italy has been victorious in 22 of his last 25 matches, which includes clay and grass surfaces. During his marvelous run, he’s won in Belgrade, reached the Masters 1000 final in Madrid, advanced to the quarterfinals at Roland-Garros and won his first ATP 500 at The Queen’s Club. The 25-year-old Rome native has reached the quarterfinals at three of the four Grand Slams.

After the No. 7 seed beat No. 79 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus on Monday afternoon, Berrettini said in press: “I feel I am playing for sure the best tennis of my career. [In] 2019 I was playing good, but everything was kind of new. I had to adjust a little bit. Now, I have more confidence, more experience as well. Obviously, the tournament is not done yet. I’m really looking forward to achieving even more.”

Later Monday, Berrettini was seen sitting in his girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic’s box at No. 1 Court cheering for her against Emma Raducanu. Like Berrettini, she is into the quarterfinals of the women’s draw.

Women’s quarterfinals: Aussie versus Aussie

Among the four quarterfinals, one that stands out pairs No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty against unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic in an all-Australian battle.

Monday’s Wimbledon results

Tuesday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

On Monday, No. 16 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime became the fifth Canadian to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals following his 6-4, 7-6 (6) 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev in four hours and two minutes on No. 1 Court. The other Canadians? Try Robert Powell (1908, 1910 and 1912), former finalist Milos Raonic (2014, 2016-18), Vasek Pospisil (2015) and this year’s No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov, who a few hours before Auger-Aliassime defeated No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-1, 6-3, 7-5.

“Quotable …”

“Emma was born to be here. She runs like a deer out there. If you can run like that and hit the ball, you’re in good shape. You make these big jumps in your career and she’s done the big jump at Wimbledon. She’s totally embracing it – I love it. Now there’s one word she and her management need to learn: no. Everyone’s going to want a piece of her now. She’s going to be in demand, and she has to keep her eye on the long-term prize.”

– Nine-time Wimbledon champion and Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova, who analyzed the Emma Raducanu-Ajla Tomljanovic match for the BBC.

What they’re writing

New York Times media writer Ben Smith on “Naomi Osaka Is Talking to the Media Again, but on Her Own Terms”: