#NextGenATP contender, 18-year old Felix Auger-Aliassime reached the first 500-level semifinal of his career this Friday at Rio Open presented by Claro.
The wild card Canadian will take on Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas this Saturday, at the second match of the session that starts at 5pm at Court Guga Kuerten.
Cuevas, 33, is no stranger to the Rio Open semifinals, having reached this phase in 2016 when he was crowned champion.
To make it to the semis, rising star Auger-Aliassime defeated another promising player this Saturday, Spaniard Jaume Munar in two sets (6/4 and 6/3) in one hour and 38 minutes of match.
Munar, who has made the quarter-finals at each of the three Golden Swing events this year, was a 4th-place finisher at the Next Gen ATP Finals last year and it’s Rafael Nadal’s pupil _he practices at the 11-times Roland Garros champion academy.
“It was a great win for me, beating a better ranked player this week like Fabio [Fognini] is special, but this one today felt even more special because I hadn’t been able yet to win three matches at this level in a row and to do it now, specially against Jaume, who beat me two times last year on clay, I think I wasn’t the favorite, I didn’t feel like the favorite yesterday night when I went to sleep, but when I woke up today I was able to impose myself from the start and I was like: OK, so maybe I’m a different player today. I had a little edge over him and I was able to use that during the whole match”, said Auger-Aliassime, who admitted he never felt like a prodigy.
“From the moment some people put me on the map at a very young age, maybe 14, I never felt like a prodigy I only felt like I’m good at what I’m doing, I was always working hard, believing in myself but obviously when you see yourself at the papers it changes the way you see the sport. I feel good right now, it’s been good but it’s not where I wanna stop. There’s possibly two more matches this week so I want to go as far as I can and play as good as I can. I don’t feel different that I felt last week”, said the Canadian that was “adopted” by the Brazilian fans after all the two players from the country lost at the beginning of the tournament. “I’m happy they were supportive of me and I tried to use this as an advantage tonight.”
Cuevas wins and aims for second title
Cuevas, the other semifinalist, beat Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in 6/3, 3/6 and 6/3 in a little over two hours and 30 minutes of match at Court Guga Kuerten.
In route to the semifinal, Cuevas defeated defending champion Diego Schwartzman, who retired while down 6/1, 4/1 due to a right leg injury in the first round, and then Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round.
“To be honest it was a very tough match tonight. I struggled with consistency throughout the match, made lots of mistakes and had no energy at some moments. But the good thing is that I could manage to win in the end. I can’t say I was surprised with his tennis, the problem is that I was having ups and downs”, said Cuevas.
As for his young rival this Saturday, the Uruguay believes that if he improves his game he can beat the Canadian.
He is a very talented player, I’ve seen him playing a little this week, he’s got a lot of weapons and plays really well on clay. But at the same time he’s still very inconsistent so I have to get better and be as agressive as I can.”
RESULTS – FEBRUARY 22, 2019
Singles – Quarterfinals
L. Djere (SRB) d [Q] C. Ruud (NOR) 64 75
A. Bedene (SLO) d [Q] H. Dellien (BOL) 46 62 63
P. Cuevas (URU) d A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 63 36 63
[WC] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) d J. Munar (ESP) 64 63
Doubles – Semifinals
M. Gonzalez (ARG) / N. Jarry (CHI) d  J. Cabal (COL) / R. Farah (COL) 36 75 10-7
[WC] T. Bellucci (BRA) / R. Dutra Silva (BRA) d R. Jebavy (CZE) / A. Molteni (ARG) 64 76(3)
ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2019
QUADRA GUGA KUERTEN start 5:00 pm
L. Djere (SRB) vs A. Bedene (SLO)
P. Cuevas (URU) vs [WC] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
[WC] T. Bellucci (BRA) / R. Dutra Silva (BRA) vs M. Gonzalez (ARG) / N. Jarry (CHI)