With a semi-final place on the line at the Nitto ATP Finals on Thursday, it was Taylor Fritz who rose to the occasion in Turin.
In a winner-take-all blockbuster at the Pala Alpitour, the American edged out Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-2 to reach the semifinals in their debut at the prestigious end-of-year event.
Both entered the match with a 1-1 record in the Green Group, aiming to join Casper Ruud in the last four. In front of an electric crowd, Fritz effectively executed his aggressive play while handling the pressure at crucial moments. He fired 32 winners and outlasted Auger-Aliassime during heavy-hitting exchanges in the third set, earning the crucial break at 3-2 in the decider to advance after two hours and 44 minutes.
“I needed to serve well all the time, I knew that,” Fritz said. “It was frustrating throughout the game when so many points were one away from break point. So many times at 15/30, 0/30 when I was coming back, I got into the points and kept losing the points. I just tried to be patient and not get frustrated and then took advantage when I had the chance.”
The eighth seed was strong on serve throughout the contest, finding his spots to dominate behind his delivery in the fast-paced indoor conditions. The world No. 9 gave Auger-Aliassime few chances on the return. He won 88 per cent (50/57) of his first serve points and saved all three break points he faced, roaring with delight as he sealed victory on his first match point.
“It’s huge,” Fritz said when asked about reaching the semifinals. “From possibly not even qualifying to now being in the semifinals feels great. I felt like I was going to play well here. I feel like I always play my best tennis against the best players.”
In an impressive performance, Fritz was clinical going into the baseline, winning 80 per cent of the points attacking.
Taylor Fritz Perspectives” style=”width: 100%;” />
With his 45th tour-level win of the season, Fritz has improved to 2-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Auger-Aliassime. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells, before going on to crowns in Eastbourne and Tokyo.
Auger-Aliassime, who was making his debut in Turin, finished the round-robin stage with a 1-2 record.
“It was a very high quality match for sure,” he said of his loss to Fritz. “In the third set, [I made some] bad choices, bad execution in some parts. Maybe I lost focus a bit. The fact that I am tired, sometimes you do not feel that you are tired, but it is late, you have played a lot. I have played a long year.
“Sometimes without feeling [it], you make bad decisions, some mistakes, double faults, just because your brain is not that sharp. That was what happened. I have to give him credit because the way I came back in the second set, for him to stay around, to keep playing well in the third set, is a great effort on his part.”
The 22-year-old lost to Ruud in his first match this week before defeating Rafael Nadal. In a breakout season, the Canadian captured tour-level trophies in Rotterdam, Florence, Antwerp and Basel, going 57-27 on the year.
He will return to action next week as he leads Canada in the Davis Cup Finals, vying for a second trophy with his country this season after an ATP Cup triumph in January.