An 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime has been playing his first ATP tournament on grass in Stuttgart and it is so far so good for him, prevailing against Dustin Brown 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in two hours and 28 minutes to reach the semis.
The youngster saved a match point on the return at 4-5 in the deciding set and made a stellar comeback to cross the finish line first and become the youngest semi-finalist of the ATP event on grass since Andy Roddick in Nottingham 2001!
The Canadian hit 30 aces and fended off four out of five break points to mount the pressure on Brown who had the power to deal with it, beating Alexander Zverev in the previous round and delivering another excellent performance on the beloved surface to come on the verge of victory.
Dustin claimed 14 points less than Felix but he was there to compete until the very last moment, repelling six out of seven break points and just missing the opportunity to play in the first ATP semi-final since Gstaad 2016!
The German saved three break points in the eighth game of the first set, reaching a tie break that Felix won 7-3 after a volley error from Brown at the net. Auger-Aliassime was the one who fended off a break chance in the eighth game of set number two but this time it was Dustin who played better in the breaker, taking it 7-2 after a forehand error from the youngster to level the overall score and set up a decider.
The momentum was on the side of the more experienced player now and he broke in the fifth game following a loose forehand from Felix, opening a 5-3 gap and serving for the victory in the tenth game. Ready to fight for every point, Auger-Aliassime erased a match point when Brown's volley landed wide, converting the fourth break point with a fantastic forehand winner to level the score at 5-5 and stay in contention.
Everything was on the side of the young gun now, taking the tie break 7-2 to seal the deal and advance into last four where he will face a compatriot Milos Raonic. Playing for the first time since Miami, the last year's Stuttgart finalist moved into the semis with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Marton Fucsovics in 73 minutes, losing only 11 points on serve and breaking Marton once in each set to stay on title course.
The Canadian made the best possible start, securing a break in the first game of the match after a double fault from the Hungarian, saving a break point in game six with a service winner and closing the opener with three winners in game ten for a 6-4.
The second set offered nine commanding holds and one loose service game from Fucsovics that cost him the match, getting broken at 15 in game seven and allowing Raonic to wrap up the triumph with four winners in game ten to set an all-Canadian semis.
Jan-Lennard Struff dismissed a former champion Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 in 69 minutes, dropping 11 points on serve and never experiencing a dangerous service game. On the other hand, the Frenchman had to battle against 11 break chances, defending nine of those but suffering one break of serve in each set to propel Struff into the semis.
Jan-Lennard drew first blood in the ninth game after a backhand error from Pouille, closing the set in the next game with four service winners and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter. Lucas saved the first seven break points in set number two to extend his chances although the eighth proved to be crucial, spraying a forehand error at 4-4 to send Struff ahead, with the German moving over the top with a forehand winner in game ten for the second semi-final of the season.
Kicking off the 2018 season with no ATP wins and from outside the top-130, the young Italian Matteo Berrettini had worked hard to earn the place in the top-50, delivering 19 triumphs on the main level and finishing the year just outside the mentioned group.
Matteo claimed the title in Gstaad without losing a set, playing bold and aggressive tennis on fast clay court to leave all the rivals behind, building confidence and preparing for even bigger goals in 2019 where he currently stands in the top-30 and with 21 wins under his belt.
Competing in only five ATP matches on grass before Stuttgart, Berrettini has delivered some mighty impressive tennis this week to reach the semi-final without losing a set or offering his opponents break points, ready to go all the way and lift the first title on the fastest surface.
On Friday, the Italian took down Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 12 minutes, sailing through his service games and breaking the American three times to march into the semis where he will play against Jan-Lennard Struff, seeking the place in the fourth ATP final.