Montrealer Auger-Aliassime battles back to win semi in Marseille


Seeks his second title in as many weeks against Russian Andrey Rublev in the Open 13 Provence on Sunday.

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Félix Auger-Aliassime, who won his first ATP Tour event last week, will be looking for his second title Sunday when he faces Andrey Rublev in the final of the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

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The 21-year-old Montrealer battled for two hours and 23 minutes to defeat Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in the semifinals Saturday.

“Today was complicated, as I expected,” Auger-Aliassime said in the post-match press conference. “Safiullin has been playing well this year so far and I think he’ll be even better in the future.”

Safiullin, a 24-year-old late bloomer who burst on the scene as a last-minute replacement on the Russian team at last month’s ATP Cup, made life difficult for the third-seeded Auger-Aliassime.

Nerves got the better of Safiullin and he was broken in the opening game of the match. He pulled even at 3-3 when he broke Auger-Aliassime in a marathon game, but not before the third-seeded Canadian fought off five match points.

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Safiullin had the upper hand in the first tiebreaker, taking a 4-1 lead, but Auger-Aliassime reeled off six consecutive points to take the set.

Both players served well in the second set, but Auger-Aliassime had an opening in the eighth game. The Russian showed more poise under pressure to save four break points and hold, but it was Auger-Aliassime who controlled the tiebreaker. Auger-Aliassime finished with 15 aces to 10 for Safiullin.

“[He showed] tough qualities, serving well when he needed to, saving those break points in the second set,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I’m glad I was able to find a way through to reach the end.”

The second-seeded Rublev had a battle of his own before defeating ninth-seed Benjamin Bonzi of France 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Rublev has a 2-1 career edge over Auger-Aliassime, but the Montrealer defeated the Russian in three sets last week in the semifinals at Rotterdam.

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