ATP Rio: Felix Auger-Aliassime downs Pablo Cuevas to write history



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ATP Rio: Felix Auger-Aliassime downs Pablo Cuevas to write history

Ten years after the International series changed the name (ATP 500) and the number of tournaments, an 18-year-old Canadian has become the youngest finalist at this level and the second overall if we count all the events since it was established in 1990, only behind Andrei Medvedev.

The super talented player is also the first competitor born in 2000 who has reached the ATP final, entering the top-100 on Monday and having a chance to become the first ATP champion before turning 19 since Kei Nishikori in 2008!

Receiving a wild card to enter the main draw, Felix scored three wins (over Fabio Fognini, Christian Garin and Jaume Munar) to advance into the first semi-final and he took down Pablo Cuevas 6-3 3-6 6-3 in two hours and five minutes to make another step closer to the first ATP trophy.

Auger-Aliassime overpowered a former champion and much more experienced rival to write history books, serving at 75% and fending off five out of seven break points to limit the damage in his games and keep the pressure on Pablo who couldn't endure it.

The youngster was brave and determined, imposing his shots to hit 30 winners and 40 unforced errors while Pablo stood on a more reduced 12-23 ratio that wasn't enough for the positive outcome. The Uruguayan had to play against six break points and he got broken three times to end his campaign in the semis and propel the young gun into the maiden ATP final, standing as the youngest finalist since Taylor Fritz in Memphis 2016.

Felix saved two break points in the third game to gain the boost, breaking Pablo in the following game to forge the lead that he brought home with perfect serving in the next three games for a 6-3. Good serve in that ninth game pushed Auger-Aliassime just a set away from the place in the final and he grabbed an early lead in the second set with a forehand crosscourt winner, firing from all cylinders and marching towards the finish line.

Cuevas broke back at love just a few minutes later, facing two break points in game three and fending them off to gain confidence, breaking the youngster again in game four to move 3-1 up. Serving for the set at 5-3, Pablo hit a service winner to send the encounter into a decider where he had to trail the result after Felix broke him at 15 in game two.

In a manner of a much more experienced player, the Canadian saved a break point at 4-2 and he sealed the deal with a forehand drive-volley winner on the fourth match point in the ninth game, celebrating the most significant result in a career so far and looking good to win the maiden ATP crown on Sunday against Laslo Djere.