Karen Khachanov played the spoiler on Thursday, beating home favourite and birthday boy Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7(7), 7-5, 6-3 to make his fourth ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal.
The World No. 8 was broken while serving for the second set at 5-3 but regrouped to break Auger-Aliassime in a set that featured six breaks of serve. There were 12 in total for the match.
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The raucous crowd was trying to will the 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final (Miami 2019), chanting “Let’s go, Felix!” throughout the match.
But Khachanov, at age 23, four years Auger-Aliassime’s senior, was the more composed of the two in the decider, commanding play from the baseline and benefitting from some nervy play on Auger-Aliassime’s side.
“Honestly, it was a roller coaster today. Not many matches have been played like that,” Khachanov said. “Today was tough conditions, really windy. I think both of us were struggling to take our serves, which are pretty powerful normally. I just had to win playing a little bit ugly.”
The Canadian had a late opening as Khachanov served at 0/30, 5-3, but the Russian again settled his nerves, ending the match with four straight points. The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime committed 12 double faults, compared to 10 aces, for the match.
“I have to stay proud of what I’ve done. For sure I’m frustrated because it was a big occasion. There was a lot of expectations, pressure, you name it. I think I handled that well,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But to be playing good and to lead in a match, to have a chance to win… It’s tough to see it slip away, but there’s a reason for that. It just means that I still have things to improve to win these types of matches and to deal better with these types of moments.”
Khachanov made his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros in June and is through to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final since March at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (l. to Nadal). But the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier has taken a liking to Canada in past years, making the semi-finals in Toronto last year, before losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
The Russian won’t have to face Nadal until the final, but third seed Alexander Zverev will have plenty to say about Khachanov reaching the semi-finals. The 2017 champion beat Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(5) to make his second Masters 1000 quarter-final of the season (Madrid).
“Once you’re in the quarter-finals,” Khachanov said, “you just have to step up and believe more in yourself and take opportunities if you have them.”