Félix Auger-Aliassime puts two Canadians in US Open semi-finals


NEW YORK — A Canadian in the women’s semi-final. A Canadian in the men’s semi-final. A pincer movement from the Canucks at the US Open.

Félix Auger-Aliassime had an easier course than Leylah Fernandez on Tuesday. The 21-year-old from Montreal got a forfeit when Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz retired halfway through their Tuesday night game with a right leg injury. Fernandez beat Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina in a third set tie-break.

Neither Auger-Aliassime nor Fernandez, the 18-year-old from Laval, Que., Had reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. Of course, Fernandez has only been on tour for about a minute.

“It’s great for Canada. It’s great for Quebec, ”Auger-Aliassime told reporters during his post-match press conference. “We are both from Montreal. I mean, I never thought that a day like this would come. Both a little girl and a little boy from Montreal, both at the same time in the US Open semifinals. It is special. It’s special for us. Hope the people back home enjoy the moment as well. We do a lot.

It would be a yes, Felix.

“It would be amazing if we were both in the final, right?

It would be a yes, Felix.

Auger-Aliassime has been in the spotlight since the age of 14, when he broke through the lower level ATP Challenger circuit. He is now the first Canadian to reach the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows in the Open’s 140-year history and the youngest to qualify for the last four since Juan Martin del Potro lifted the trophy in 2009.

Auger-Aliassime will have an intriguing showdown with number 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, the 25-year-old Russian who booked his semifinal spot in Queens for the third year in a row, beating Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp in four. sets.

The Canadian and the Russian had a previous meeting, in Toronto three years ago, decided in favor of Medvedev by a decisive final set.

But it was an unsatisfying conclusion to the magical run that Alcaraz, barely 18, had enjoyed at Flushing Meadows.

The teenager had appeared for the nightcap meeting with his leg already tightly tied. The problem, he later explained, was his rectus adductor, a thigh muscle connecting the pelvic bone to the femur. While he arrived in the quarterfinals after five consecutive sets, including an elimination of Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded number 3, he had not felt anything unpleasant until the meeting with Auger-Aliassime.

“Playing two matches in five sets in a row, playing at a good level, with great intensity for, like, four hours, it’s really difficult for me. I’m not used to playing these kinds of matches in a row. Yes, I think it’s really difficult to recover for the next matches.

Alcaraz’s thigh pinch quickly became apparent. He thought it was manageable. “Before the game, I can feel it.” It got worse at the end of the first set, more so at the start of the second. The crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium knew nothing about it other than the fact that Alcaraz was no longer hitting booming groundstrokes like he had in his previous appearances. His game wasn’t as precise either, having racked up 16 unforced errors in 13 games.

On the other side of the net, Auger-Aliassime had no idea and was surprised when Alcaraz called a physiotherapist during the change in the second set. The physiotherapist had a long discussion with the teenager but did not treat him. A match later, down 3-1, Alcaraz retired.

The two players met at the net for a handshake but Auger-Aliassime did not probe. “He didn’t say much. I just told him I’m sorry for him. I didn’t ask what he had. I said: ‘You are a great player, you are an amazing player. You have to keep pushing, keep pushing. You are already doing wonders.

Auger-Aliassime won the first set hands down, 6-3.

As for Medvedev? He called their first meeting a “big game”.

“I was actually on a break. I had a few chances, “he said.” It was a close loss. “

They have each come a long way since then. Medvedev is ranked world No. 2 behind Novak Djokovic; Auger-Aliassime, the 12th seed here, is No. 15.

“Of course he’s going to come with a lot of confidence,” Auger-Aliassime said of his opponent, who has reached the major final twice but has yet to win the Grand Slam title. “I also need to improve and have confidence in myself. I need to serve well. I have to play a great game, be solid in all aspects of the game.

“At the same time, I have to try to put pressure on him. But it’s gonna be tough. I have to be ready for his best. I also have to tie my shoes very well, because there is going to be a lot of running.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and current affairs for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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