Tennis·ROUNDUP

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime breezes into round of 16 at Australian Open with straight-sets win

Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime has advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open. Auger-Aliassime defeated Britain's Dan Evans in straight sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 on Saturday at the Grand Slam event.

Halep, Sabalenka, Świątek advance on women's side; Ottawa's Dabrowski eliminated

Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrates after defeating Daniel Evans of Britain during their third-round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Saturday. (Simon Baker/The Associated Press)

For the second year in a row at the Australian Open, Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime has advanced to the second week.

The 21-year-old Canadian, the No. 9 seed, swiftly dispatched No. 24 seed Dan Evans 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 Saturday to move into the round of 16.

On Monday, he'll play No. 27 seed Marin Čilić for a spot in the quarter-finals. Čilić knocked off No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday.

This is the fourth time in his last five Grand Slam appearances that Auger-Aliassime has reached the second week. That includes a semifinal effort at the US Open last September, and a Wimbledon quarter-final last July.

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime tops Evans at Australian Open:

Auger-Aliassime beats Evans in straight sets at Australian Open

4 months ago
Duration 2:55
Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime advances to the fourth round of the Australian Open with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Britain's Daniel Evans.

It's starting to feel like familiar territory.

"It's like everything in life. When you break new ground you don't feel, let's say, as comfortable, or you kind of feel out of your comfort zone. Now, of course, playing more and more Grand Slams and [having gone] to the semifinals, I feel more in my place," Auger-Aliassime said.

The 21-year-old survived gruelling matches in his first two rounds at Melbourne Park. He was down two sets to one, and needed three hours, 40 minutes to get past Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori in the first round on Tuesday.

Two days later, it took him four hours and 20 minutes to play four tiebreaks against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain. Auger-Aliassime won three of them, and prevailed largely on the strength of a great serving day.

Evans posed a different challenge.

The 31-year-old Brit put a 6-2, 6-3 beatdown on Auger-Aliassime at Melbourne Park a year ago in the final of a tune-up tournament, just before the Australian Open. It was Auger-Aliassime's seventh unsuccessful tournament final (he has since added an eighth).

And it was the first career ATP Tour title for Evans, then 30.

'Prepared to face different situations'

A year later, even if he still is in search of that first title, the Canadian's maturation is evident.

In a far more high-profile situation, he produced a far more positive outcome.

"I didn't have the attitude I needed [last year]. I didn't have the desire. I didn't serve as well. My level of play, the person I was then probably has nothing to do with who I am today," Auger-Aliassime said of that final. "Today I'm more stable mentally. I know what I want to do on the court. I'm prepared to face different situations.

"And today, things went well for me. I served well from beginning to end. A close first set, but after that, two good sets. Can't ask for more," he added.

The statistics for Saturday's win were sterling. The Canadian blasted 16 aces and double-faulted just three times.

He hit 40 winners, and made just 21 unforced errors.

"Twice as many winners as errors is a very good ratio. As a player if you can stay in that zone where you can really strike, hurt the opponent, but all the while keeping the errors to a minimum — that's the ideal," he said.

Notably, Auger-Aliassime had already saved two break point chances on his serve before earning his first on Evans's serve, at 4-5 in the first set.

Evans came forward and butchered a swing volley into the net, handing the Canadian the first set.

Auger-Aliassime broke again early in the second set, after the Brit double-faulted on break point.

He broke Evans four more times — six times in all, on seven break opportunities. He was done by 7 p.m., with his next opponent playing late into Saturday night, Auger-Aliassime wrapped up the victory in one hour, 53 minutes.

As with his win over Davidovich Fokina, the serve was the key.

"When you can be consistent on your service games and win a lot of free points, it takes a lot of pressure off," he said.

Matchup against Čilić

The Canadian's next opponent is a former Australian Open finalist.

In 2018, Čilić defeated Rafael Nadal in five sets in the quarter-finals, then lost to Roger Federer in five sets in the final.

The 33-year-old Croat played his first Australian Open in 2007, when Auger-Aliassime was six years old.

Čilić is 3-0 against Auger-Aliassime. The most recent victory was in the Canadian's eighth ATP Tour final, on grass in Stuttgart, Germany last June.

On Sunday (11 p.m. Saturday ET), Auger-Aliassime's countryman Denis Shapovalov will meet No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev, with the winner going to the quarter-finals.

Ottawa's Dabrowski eliminated

In doubles action, Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico were upset in the second round with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 loss to Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens and Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo. 

Dabrowski and Olmos, the No. 6 seed, won their first-round match 6-2, 6-3 against Columbia's Camila Osorio and France's Clara Burel on Friday.

The Canadian was also knocked out of the mixed doubles tournament later on Saturday, as she and partner Hugo Nys of Monaco suffered a 7-5, 6-3 first-round loss to American Bernarda Pera and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands.

No. 2 seed Medvedev cruises past Van de Zandschulp

As Daniil Medvedev sat courtside trying to re-hydrate during a changeover, an image of nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic flashed up in the stadium behind him.

It was in the third set Saturday, and it was like the absent No. 1 was looking over the shoulder of the player who is effectively the No. 1 seed at the year's first Grand Slam tournament.

Medvedev, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic but avenged that with a victory over the Serb for the U.S. Open title, reached the fourth round for the fourth straight year at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Botic van de Zandschulp.

Medvedev plays a backhand return to Van de Zandschulp during their third-round match on Saturday. (Andy Brownbill/The Associated Press)

The 25-year-old Russian was a conspicuous fan favourite on Margaret Court Arena, too, two days after being unsettled by the boos and jeers of a parochial crowd on Rod Laver Arena when he ended the run of mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios.

He was critical of a lack of respect in that match — mostly about the noise between first and second serves — and this time offered some relationship advice to the crowd.

"Every good relationship must have its ups and downs," he said in his on-court TV interview, explaining that he planned to be back on court quite often in the future. "I hope it's going to be more good times than bad times, otherwise it doesn't work."

Medvedev later clarified he didn't have a problem with the Australian crowds and had been fully expecting to have them against him when he played Kyrgios — just not while he was in his service motion.

Medvedev avoided a showdown with Djokovic after the world's top-ranked player had his visa cancelled and was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia's strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.

He also avoided another match against an Australian in the fourth round when wildcard entry Chris O'Connell lost to Maxime Cressy 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2.

Cressy's win means there's two 24-year-old Americans who'll be in the fourth round of a major for their first time.

No. 70-ranked Cressy is in his fourth Grand Slam tournament. No. 20-ranked Taylor Fritz finally made it in his 22nd attempt, with a 6-0, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut, and said it "means a ton."

Fritz will next play fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, a runner-up at the French Open and semifinalist in Australia last year, who fended off Benoit Paire 6-3, 7-5, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

Australia's Alex de Minaur, seeded 32nd, beat Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the first of the night matches on Day 6 on the main show court at Melbourne Park.

De Minaur, a quarter-finalist at the 2020 U.S. Open, will next play No. 11 Jannik Sinner, who beat Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the third round.

Halep, Sabalenka, Świątek also advance

On the women's side, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep is into Week 2 at Melbourne Park for the fifth consecutive year after a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Danka Kovinic.

None of the other players remaining the women's draw has won as many tour-level titles as Halep's 23.

Halep's next opponent will be Alize Cornet, who celebrated her 32nd birthday with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 29 Tamara Zidansek, a 2021 French Open semifinalist.

Cornet followed up her upset of No. 3 Garbine Muguruza by reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009.

WATCH | Cornet pulls off upset over Muguruza:

Cornet upsets world No. 3 Muguruza in Australian Open 2nd round

4 months ago
Duration 1:13
France's Alize Cornet, ranked 61st in the world, defeats two-time Grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-3 and advances to the third round at the Australian Open.

She'll be joined by second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova.

A contender for the No. 1 ranking — Sabalenka can potentially overtake Ash Barty depending on results here — the 23-year-old from Belarus admits her serve is still a work in progress.

The match started ominously, when Sabalenka had two double-faults and was broken in the first game.

But unlike the previous round, when she had nine double-faults in her first two service games and 19 in the match, the semifinalist last year at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open managed to almost halve that glaring statistic.

It's something she'll be working on ahead of her next match against No. 115-ranked Kaia Kanepi, who has reached the quarter-finals six times at Grand Slam events — but only once since 2013 and never in Australia.

No. 7 Iga Świątek, the 2020 French Open champion, beat No. 25 Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-3. Świątek will next play Sorana Cirstea, who had a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win over 10th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the French Open final last year and has been an Australian Open quarter-finalist in three of the last six years.

In other third-round matches, 27th-seeded Danielle Collins of the U.S. rallied from a set and a break down to beat 19-year-old Clara Tauson 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. She'll next meet No. 19 Elise Mertens, who advanced 6-2, 6-2 over Zhang Shuai.

With files from CBC Sports and The Associated Press

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