Felix Auger-Aliassime’s dream of defeating his tennis idol came true on Tuesday.
After a loss to Norway’s Casper Ruud to open his first career appearance at the season-ending ATP Finals, Auger-Aliassime regained his scorching end-of-season form with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over top-seeded Rafael Nadal in round-robin play.
“I wasn’t sure If I would be here one day or if I could only dream of it,” Auger-Aliassime said of defeating the Spanish legend for the first time.
“The age difference is huge, and it proves what a champion he is and what an example because he is still here at 36, battling against guys in their young 20s. He is a great champion and has a great attitude.”
Auger-Aliassime, seeded fifth in the season-ending men’s championship, used his dominant serve to wear down Nadal.
The 22-year-old Canadian was good on 81 per cent of his first-serve points and fired 15 aces, including one on his first point to set the tone.
Auger-Aliassime took advantage of some uncharacteristically loose play by Nadal to score a break in Game 8 of the first set. Leading 40-love, Nadal committed two consecutive double faults to give Auger-Aliassime a lifeline.
Nadal recovered to take advantage after Auger-Aliassime tied the game at 40-all, but the Canadian took three consecutive crucial points to open up a 5-3 first-set lead. Serving for the set, Auger-Aliassime held with little trouble to go up 1-0.
Auger-Aliassime put the pressure on Nadal early in the second set, scoring a break to go up 2-1. The two traded holds for the rest of the match, with Auger-Aliassime winning on his first match point on serve when Nadal sent a return into the net.
The win evened Auger-Aliassime’s round-robin record to 1-1 after the Canadian dropped Sunday’s opener 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Ruud.
Auger-Aliassime will next meet eighth-seeded American Taylor Fritz, who lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6) to Ruud later Tuesday. The result confirmed a semifinal berth for the 23-year-old Norwegian and eliminated Nadal (0-2).