Madrid | Auger Aliassime to face Rublev in final

Felix Auger Aliassime has reached the first Masters final of his career but just couldn’t believe the circumstances which have eased his passage to the championship round of the Madrid Open having actually only completed three matches!

It’s crazy times for the elite of our sport, withdrawing from many events. But obviously for me it’s kind of a weird rhythm not having played that much and being in the finals. Felix Auger Aliassime

Two of the other three matches in his six-match ‘run’ were retirements and the other a walkover!

And as far as the organisers are concerned it was another blow which started with Novak Djokovic, the world No1, withdrawing before the event got underway.

On this occasion, the 22-year-old Czech, Jiri Lehecka, pulled out of the semi-final with a back problem after just six games had been played.

Earlier in his ‘run’, the Canadan had benefitted from a retirement in the third round by another Czech, Jakub Mensik, and then given a walkover by the top seeded Italian Jannik Sinner in the quarter finals.

Even his semi-final opponent benefitted from a retirement as Russia’s third seed Daniil Medvedev pulled out of their quarter final encounter with a groin injury after dropping the first set.

“It’s crazy. I don’t know if it’s ever happened before; it’s kind of a weird situation to be in on my part,” Auger-Aliassime, who for the past year has seen his form slip but in recent months, seems to have recovered much of it.

The unfortunate Lehecka, playing in his first Masters semi-final, felt something go in his back as he attempted a serve early in the match and took an off-court medical timeout that lasted eight minutes before play resumed at 3-3.

Jiri Lehecka grimaces in pain

(Photo by Mateo Villalba/Getty Images)

It was all over three points later as he fell to the ground in pain and bringing a halt to the proceedings. And after conceding the match and shaken hands, Lehecka destroyed his racket in frustration at having to pu;; out.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening when I saw that his back blocked on him. I feel really bad for him,” the 23-year-old from Montreal added.

“It’s crazy times for the elite of our sport, withdrawing from many events. But obviously for me it’s kind of a weird rhythm not having played that much and being in the finals. But I can just focus on the first week of tennis I had.”

Andrey Rublev delighted at reaching the final

(Photo By Irina R. Hipolito/Europa Press via Getty Images)

He will face Russia’s Andrey Rublev in that final on Sunday who in the first semi played earlier in the day, saw off American Taylor Fritz in straight sets.

Rublev will be playing in his fifth Masters final after dispatching Fritz 6-4 6-3 in what proved a clinical performance against an in-form American.

The pair traded breaks in the opening two games before Rublev struck again in the 10th to capture the opening set following a rare lapse of concentration from 12th seeded American who dropped his serve to love.

He again faltered under Russian pressure in the sixth game of the second as Rublev broke for a third time to take control of the semi-final and served out two games later for a comfortable win.

Andrey Rublev is congratulated by Taylor Fritz

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

For Rublev it was a dramatic change of form as he had arrived in Madrid having lost in the opening round of Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona and he put his sudden resurgence down to a calmer approach to the game. In his Madrid run he eliminated the two-time champion and home favourite, Calos Alcaraz, the world No.3.

“For sure mentally I was feeling much better (this week) and I was able to perform, putting emotions in the right direction; for sure that helped me to be in the final. Without this, I wouldn’t be in the final,” Rublev said.

Looking ahead to the final, Rublev leads Auger Aliassime in their head-to-head 4-1 but four of their five encounters reached a deciding set with the Canadian losing their most recent encounter in Rotterdam last February after holding three match points.

“We’ve always had three-set battles, even back in 2018, when I was much younger,” Auger Aliassime commented.



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