Felix Auger-Aliassime achieved an impossible. The Canadian reached the NOVENTI Open quarter-finals on Wednesday in epic fashion, defeating 10-time champion Roger Federer 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 on the grass of Halle. In his first game against a #NextGenATP figure, something more than a generational duel, the Helvetian verified the hunger for new talent on the circuit.
For the first time in 18 appearances, Federer was eliminated before reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament. That, however, was not the only unprecedented reality on German grass during the day. The 19 years of difference that separated the players on both sides of the net was the greatest contrast in the 1,521 matches that make up Federer's career.
The Swiss, who has written much of his history on German grass, signed his first appearance in Halle in the 2000 season eight weeks before the birth of Auger-Aliassime. This vital gap was not an impediment for Felix to take the game with the seriousness of a veteran.
After more than two years away from the surface, Federer used the encounter to continue adjusting his game to the particular demands of the turf. The Helvetian tried to compete close to the baseline, compensating for the low flight of the ball after touching the blades.
He tested the resistance of his knees, connecting the blows with a constant flexion of the joints. And he tried to polish the direction of the blows cut from him, fundamental to try to demolish the instinct of his rivals. In his first game against a player born in 2000, a testament to his longevity on the circuit, the Swiss needed to rejuvenate at every stroke to impose himself on the grass of Halle.
Although Federer landed the first blow of the game he had to sweat to get it. Roger took the first heat with the slim margin of a break, but had to overcome difficulties along the way. The Swiss had to raise a 15-40 with 3-3 on the scoreboard, a threat at the beginning of the duel, and resisted two other break points as he closed the sleeve with his serve against Auger-Aliassime.
The Canadian, runner-up on the grass in Stuttgart days ago, accepted the blow and showed his good position on the surface. Far from panicking over the caliber of his rival, Felix managed to turn the second set boldly to balance the match.
Without facing breaking balls throughout the set, the American found enormous composure to send the game to the final sleeve. The powerful game of the Canadian broke the schemes of Federer, erratic when volleying at the net and without precision to use the cut backhand.
The third set unleashed the tennis of the American, who soon built a 4-0 lead to place himself on the brink of victory. Although Roger tried to react, increasing the pace of his ball and populating the game with raises on the treadmill, Auger-Aliassime added one of the most notable wins of his career.
The Canadian thus achieved his second victory against a former world No. 1, after beating Briton Andy Murray during the last edition of the US Open. Advised by Toni Nadal, Auger-Aliassime has had access to valuable advice with strategies against Federer.
Aliassime on beating Roger Federer
Speaking to the media after the match, Auger-Aliassime said the win over Roger Federer would boost his morale and help him in the days to come. He also joked that had it been the final, he would have burst out the champagne bottles already.
"If it was the final today, I would have taken out the champagne,” he said at a press conference. "It's a great victory, I can be proud of what I did today on the court. It's very good for my confidence for this tournament but also for the weeks to come.
It's a great landmark victory, as they say. I'm going to be able to go back sometimes, watch that game again and see what went well. It's a great honor to play Federer before he retires and winning it's incredible," added the Canadian.
"He was my idol growing up. I never thought I would be able to play him one day. I thought he would be gone when I would be a pro"