Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied from a set down to claim a statement win against former World No. 1 Roger Federer on Wednesday, triumphing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals at the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle.
The 20-year-old Canadian was calm and confident against his childhood idol, even after narrowly dropping the opening set on one of Federer’s favoured courts. The two-time Stuttgart finalist completed the comeback to secure his fourth Top 10 victory (4-15) and one of the biggest wins of his career.
“It’s an amazing win, and I for sure didn’t expect this. Of course you come into the match wanting to win, but Roger was my idol, like many of us growing up,” Auger-Aliassime said, grinning in an on-court interview. “It was a huge honour to play him before he retired, and to beat him is something amazing that I will always cherish.”
Felix On Facing Federer: ‘He’ll Try To Trick Me’
Federer, who has lifted the trophy in Halle a record 10 times, was playing against the 20-year-old for the first time. The pair share the same birthday, 8 August, but are separated by 19 years – the biggest age difference in Federer’s 1,521 career matches.
Federer, who came into the matchup with a 32-0 record in first and second rounds in Halle, was seeking his 18th quarter-final appearance. He made a confident start as he controlled the rallies in the opening set, drawing Auger-Aliassime in with smart approach shots and passing him at the net. The Swiss converted his lone break opportunity with a blazing backhand down the line at 4-3, and comfortably closed out the set.
But Auger-Aliassme refused to wilt away, and changed his tactics in the second set to target Federer’s backhand with his strong serves. The Canadian earned attackable chip returns and had Federer under pressure, creating five break points across two games as a result and converting one for a 4-2 lead.
The Canadian continued his charge into the third set, taking advantage of a dip in Federer’s first serve percentage – from 73 per cent of first serves in the first set to 58 per cent in the third – to go up a double break. Auger-Aliassime, who only faced one break point in the match, opened up a 4-0 lead and kept his nose in front to close out the victory in an hour and 45 minutes.
“I was a little bit [nervous], but I was playing really well. I was serving well and protecting my serve, I know I served amazingly in the third set,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was tough in the first set. I thought I was playing so good, as good as I can play, and I lost 6-4. I was [thinking], when he was in his prime and No. 1 in the world, that must have been scary.
“But I still believed in my chances, and I wanted to see what I could do further in the match. And it went my way, so it’s really great.”
Fifth seed Federer was seeking his 70th match win in Halle, and his 18th quarter-final at this event in as many appearances. The defeat against Auger-Aliassime now brings his record on the season to 5-3.