Ruud Awakening: Canadian Auger-Aliassime falls to Norwegian at the National Bank Open


Hubert Hurkacz of Poland reunites with Nick Kyrgios of Australia in the quarter-finals of the National Bank Open tennis tournament August 12 in Montreal.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Félix Auger-Aliassime stood at the back of the hard court at Stade IGA, one hand on his hip and a surprised look on his face.

Casper Ruud managed to get his racket on an overhead smash late in Friday’s quarter-final against the Canadiens, with the return floating over Auger-Aliassime’s head and inside the baseline.

Auger-Aliassime fell back but his shot found the net. Nothing worked for him that day – not even the tennis equivalent of a slam dunk – in a 6-1, 6-2 rout that lasted just 74 minutes.

“[My] the first two games were good, there are positive things,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I never thought it would end like this today.”

Auger-Aliassime, seeded sixth, entered the game without dropping a set this week but came out flat on an overcast afternoon. Ruud, Norway’s No. 4 seed, wrapped up the first set in a quick 36 minutes and knocked the home crowd out of the game.

Auger-Aliassime of Montreal committed 21 unforced errors to just eight for Ruud, who advanced to his third Masters 1000 semi-final of the season.

“It was one of those days where everything goes in favor and luckily it was in my favor,” Ruud said in his on-court interview.

Ruud next faces Pole No.8 Hubert Hurkacz, a 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-1 winner over Nick Kyrgios.

Auger-Aliassime was hoping to become the first Canadian to reach the semi-finals of this ATP Tour event since Denis Shapovalov in 2017. The last Canadian to win this tournament was Robert Bedard in 1958.

“It’s super disappointing to lose a tournament like this and especially here,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Unranked players were to play the evening quarter-finals. American Tommy Paul was scheduled to face Britain’s Daniel Evans and Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta was scheduled to meet British qualifier Jack Draper.

Auger-Aliassime couldn’t get on the right track despite regular urgings from the near-full crowd. He was firing more shots than usual and his errors came at critical moments.

With a powerful forehand and effective two-handed backhand, Ruud was clinical in his attack and relentless with pressure. Auger-Aliassime was forced to his heels and had to settle for a defensive style.

The Canadian allowed two quick breaks in the second set before finally holding serve to make it 1-4.

“Losing my service game right away and then another… from three loves, that was really the worst possible result today,” Auger-Aliassime said. “At that point, it becomes really difficult.

“I did my best, but he was also getting more and more comfortable and confident, so things are getting a lot more difficult.”

Earlier in the day, Hurkacz took advantage of two double faults from Kyrgios early in the third set for the first break of serve of their match. He rolled from there to end the Aussie’s nine-game winning streak.

“Nick is a great opponent, he can hit every shot,” Hurkacz said. “He doesn’t really have many weaknesses, if any. I was just trying to serve [well] and stay aggressive.

There was no wasted energy from Kyrgios, who played as if he had a taxi waiting outside the venue.

He usually bounced the ball once and started his serve motion straight away. The pace of play was in line with Hurkacz, a 6ft 5in right-hander who matched the Aussie’s power play.

Both players had break opportunities but tiebreakers were needed to settle the first two sets.

Kyrgios, who dispatched defending champion and world number one Daniil Medvedev in the second round, slowed down in the third set and his serve lost some of its momentum.

“I’m not a machine, I’m a human,” Kyrgios said. “My knees were sore, my back was sore, my abs [area] was in pain. I was trying to keep moving, but I stiffened.

Kyrgios has come into play with wins in 15 of his last 16 matches, with the only loss coming to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final last month.

The semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday with the final of the US$6.57 million tournament taking place on Sunday.

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