Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill, ON) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (Montreal, QC) both won their quarter-final matches on Friday and will now play each other in the semifinals on Saturday at the $75,000 Drummondville National Bank Challenger which is being held until March 19 at the René-Verrier indoor tennis club in Drummondville.
Shapovalov faced off against the world no. 300, Blaz Rola of Slovenia. The Slovenian had previously reached a career-high ranking of world no. 78. In a tight first set, neither player was able to get a break point, although both had a number of opportunities to go ahead. The set needed a tiebreak where the Canadian went down a mini-break, but managed to save three set points and erase a 3-6 deficit to take the lead.
The second set was a mirror image of the first, with neither player giving an inch. The turning point came when Shapovalov held a break point late in the set, which ended up being match point. The 17-year-old Canadian moved into the semifinals with a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over Rola. Throughout the match, he relied on his effective serve, totaling 11 aces in the process.
Auger-Aliassime faced Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the final singles match of the day. The two players had last met in the 2016 junior Wimbledon quarter-finals, with the Aussie getting the better of the Canadian in three sets. Friday’s match didn’t start off well for Auger-Aliassime, who was broken in his opening service game. Despite his overall strong play, de Minaur experienced some difficulties on his serve, totaling five double faults in the match. Auger-Aliassime earned himself a number of break point opportunities in the set, but was unable to capitalize on them until his opponent’s final two service games when the Canadian converted on the two break points that he needed to win the set.
Auger-Aliassime started the second as strong as he finished the first, notably relying on his effective returns. He broke his opponent early on and never looked back. The match featured long rallies and heavy baseline hitting from both players. The 16-year-old moved past his opponent, winning 7-5, 6-3. He will play compatriot and good friend Shapovalov in the semi-final on Saturday afternoon at approximately 2:30 p.m.
After his match, Shapovalov was asked about facing his friend in the semi-final on Saturday. “Felix and I are good friends off the court and we sometimes practice together, but we have to put that aside and focus on the match. We have played twice before, each of us winning one match.”
Auger-Aliassime shared the same sentiments. “When we get on the court, it becomes about tennis. Of course we will feel bad for the other guy after the match, but we will both be playing to win.”
Saturday will also feature the doubles final, which will oppose top seeds Sam Groth (Australia) and Adil Shamasdin (Canada) against the second seeds Matt Reid (Australia) and John-Patrick Smith (Australia). The match will take place after both singles semifinals.