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Taylor Fritz finally wears down Felix Auger-Aliassime to make semifinals in Turin debut
The American, who saved all three break points he faced in a standout service performance, will take on Novak Djokovic next at the ATP Finals.
Published Nov 18, 2022
WATCH: Taylor Fritz defeats Felix Auger-Aliassime in the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals round robin stage
When we talk about tennis players wearing their opponents down, we usually mean that one of them was too steady, or too fit, or too tenacious, or too stubborn for the other.
In the case of Taylor Fritz’s 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-2 win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in Turin on Thursday, the American finally wore the Canadian down with his power. Serves, forehands, backhands: Fritz pummeled them all relentlessly. After more than two hours of pummeling them back with just as much pace, Auger-Aliassime couldn’t offer any more resistance.
Fritz didn’t earn his first break points until Auger-Aliassime’s 14th service game, at 3-2 in the third set. But when he finally converted on break point number four, he was home free, and didn’t lose another game. He found a gear that Auger-Aliassime couldn’t match.
This was the type of slugfest that you can expect when you put down a court as slick as the one in Turin, put two youthful flamethrowers like Fritz and Auger-Aliassime on it, and have them duke it out in a win-or-go-home match for a place in the semifinals of the ATP’s season-ending championships. Fritz won 88 percent of his first-serve points, Auger-Aliassime won 75 percent. Auger-Aliassime hit 36 winners over three sets, Fritz hit 32. Each averaged 128 m.p.h. on his first serve, and 103 on his second. Neither player was broken for two and a half hours. Whatever errors, technical or tactical, that the two made on their ground strokes were quickly compensated for with a bomb serve.
“Holding serve by far is the most important thing on this court, holding serve and returning,” Fritz said. “But you don’t necessarily have to be serving amazing. If you just hit your spots, take care of the serve, it’s going to look like everyone is serving incredible.”
While Fritz was the winner, the result rested—for better and for worse—on Auger-Aliassime’s racquet. In the first-set tiebreaker, he picked the wrong time to lose his way with his backhand; three shank errors from that side cost him the set. In the second-set tiebreaker, though, FAA rose to the occasion and played three brilliant points from 4-5 down, finishing them with a drop-shot winner and two unreturnable forehands. But in the third, he could withstand the Fritz barrage no longer, and went for too much on a cross-court forehand to give away the deciding break.
“I had chances in the second set,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I had a clear chance on a return. Probably would have helped to win that set not in the tiebreak, the way I did. After the third set, bad choices, bad execution in some parts. Maybe I lost the focus a little bit.”
Fritz beat Auger-Aliassime in three sets to begin the 2022 season at the ATP Cup. Their seasons have closely tracked ever since. Each had good results in Australia, epic losses to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, bleak early defeats at the US Open, and strong late-season runs that helped them make their debuts in Turin. Now, by beating Auger-Aliassime to make the semifinals, Fritz has moved a tiny step farther up the ATP ladder.
“I feel like I play well when I play against the top players,” Fritz says.
He certainly plays well when he reaches the business end of tournaments. Fritz has made three semifinals this year, and each time he’s gone on to win the tournament.
To keep that streak alive, he’ll need to beat Novak Djokovic on Saturday. That match should give us an idea of how much farther Fritz remains from the men’s game mountaintop.