Call it the Fabulous Fall of Felix. Or the Awesome Autumn of Auger-Aliassime. Whatever your preference, the sizzling Canadian won his 16th straight match Friday. In the quarterfinals of the Rolex Paris Masters, Auger-Aliassime took 93 minutes to beat Frances Tiafoe, 6-1, 6-4. Said Auger-Aliassime, “It’s tough to ask for better.”

Begin, though, with how it looked from Tiafoe’s end. He too has played excellent tennis over the last two months, most notably with a breakthrough run to the US Open semis. Credit Tiafoe today for tenacity. After being thoroughly dominated by Auger-Aliassime for the first 15 games of the match, Tiafoe served at 1-6, 3-5. Over the course of a 22-point game, Tiafoe fought off five match points and eventually hit a pair of sharp volley winners to at last hold serve.

Amid so many lost opportunities, it naturally made sense for Auger-Aliassime to feel frustrated as the 5-4 game commenced—and for Tiafoe to be more optimistic than he’d been since he’d entered the court.

“He played some good tennis,” said Auger-Aliassime. “Then all of a sudden, he's not missing anymore. I had to earn every point. I really had to go and earn that last game.”

Auger-Aliassime can crack the Top 5 for the first time if he wins his semifinal on Saturday.

Auger-Aliassime can crack the Top 5 for the first time if he wins his semifinal on Saturday.


Suspense emerged, Auger-Aliassime opening with a poor drop shot that Tiafoe brushed aside for a winner. Two points later, Tiafoe held a 15-30 lead, one great rally away from attaining his first break point of the match. But Auger-Aliassime rose to the occasion and won the next two points. At 40-30, on match point number six—but the first on Auger-Aliassime’s serve—he pinpointed an excellent serve down the T that set up an untouchable down-the-line forehand.

Crisp ball-striking has always been one of Auger-Aliassime’s strengths. For several years now, he’s shown the ability to snap off bold placements from all corners of the court. But as today’s match revealed, what’s become even more impressive is Auger-Aliassime’s increased command of a basic tennis premise that, oddly enough, is often overlooked by zealous players of all skill levels: depth cures all. Far more than power, the ability to direct the ball well past the service line often makes the difference.

From the start of the match, Auger-Aliassime pinned Tiafoe deep into the court, driving many a forehand and backhand within inches of the baseline. Winning 12 of the first 14 points, Auger-Aliassime took a 3-0 lead. All throughout the opener, he smothered Tiafoe with a range of shots forcefully and accurately struck crosscourt and down-the-line, all of it fueled by superior movement. Dropping just two of 18 points on his serve, Auger-Aliassime took just 27 minutes to close out the set, 6-1.

“Choices are clearer, and I feel more poised,” he said. “I saw it today when I was leading 0-15, 0-30. I felt confident. I felt serene. I knew that I would manage to pick up score, to play well at crunch moments. As we saw at the end, when we feel confident, this is what happens. Even when there is a lot of tension at 15-30, 30-All, there is an important point, and I managed to find the right hit at the right moment, to be poised in my body, in my mind. I needed to be robust in my level of play.”

I have confidence in my work, in my discipline, but we never know when it will pay off. It's quite magical to see that it happens, and I'm really enjoying playing this way. —Felix Auger-Aliassime


Facing such an airtight opponent, it was difficult for Tiafoe to generate any form of traction. It continued to go that way early in the second set, Auger-Aliassime breaking Tiafoe at 1-all, 30-40. Two games later, Tiafoe serving at 1-3, Auger-Aliassime held another break point. But Tiafoe has always shown an ability to dig in on big points. He hit a superb forehand approach and eventually held, avoiding a potentially perilous double break.

And yet, as close as Tiafoe tried to stay with Auger-Aliassime throughout the second set, the Canadian remained in control of the speed and tempo of the vast majority of rallies. As much as an Auger-Aliassime long, wide or shanked shot encouraged both Tiafoe and the lively crowd, Auger-Aliassime rarely played two consecutive poor points, time after time replying with the kind of sparkling tennis that has helped him take a major leap forward.

Auger-Aliassime won three straight tournaments in October. The month began with title runs at a pair of ATP 250 events in Florence and Antwerp. Last week, he went the distance at an ATP 500 in Basel. Tomorrow he’ll try to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final.