There’s nothing quite like playing in your hometown, even with the added pressure that comes along with it.
The lone Canadian remaining in draw at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers, Felix Auger-Aliassime will attest to that. Through to the third round for the second time at the ATP Masters 1000 event, the native Montrealer is relishing the opportunity to ply his craft in front of his most fervent fans.
“The crowd here adds something special,” said Auger-Aliassime, whose parents live just 10 minutes from the tournament site. “I don’t get that anywhere else. Packed stadium, everyone is on their feet trying to support me — it’s special.”
Auger-Aliassime, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Monday, finds himself matched up against a familiar foe in ninth seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. They’ve already met three times in 2022, with Norrie claiming their most recent encounter last week in the Los Cabos semi-finals, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Auger-Aliassime leads the overall ATP Head2Head, 4-1.
Asked how he’ll approach the Norrie match on Day Four, Auger-Aliassime, poised at a career-high No. 9 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, got right down to it.
“With confidence, optimism always, with a positive mindset,” said Auger-Aliassime, now 33-18 on the season, highlighted by his first ATP Tour title in Rotterdam in February. “We have history. But that’s behind us. There’s no need to think about that too much. I just go in with a lot of belief. At the end of the day, I did lose last week, but I think it's just good we played last week, period.
"Some good things worked. I’m going to try to do that as much as I can and try to repeat the things that worked well last week, and the outcome can be on my side tomorrow.”
After upending top-ranked and defending champion Daniil Medvedev for the third time in four career ATP Head2Heads, Nick Kyrgios will face fellow Aussie Alex De Minaur in the third round. The Wimbledon finalist has now won 14 of his last 15 singles matches and is 29-7 on the season.
“I’m not going to leave anything in the tank these two weeks,” said Kyrgios, referring to the Masters 1000 events in both Montreal and Cincinnati. “My ranking still is not guaranteed to be seeded at all tournaments... These are two massive weeks.
“I’ve had success in Cincinnati before. I made the final there. I feel like I’m confident. But there’s nothing guaranteed. There’s never any guarantees in life. I could go into the US Open, feel fresh, play someone on the day that is just too good. Then I’m going to regret not letting it all out of the tank in Montreal and Cincinnati.”
American Tommy Paul, who pulled off a three-set stunner against No. 2 seed Carlos Alcaraz in the second round, saving a match point in the process, will face 13th seed Marin Cilic. The resurgent 33-year-old Croat has twice reached the quarter-finals in Canada (2008, 2018).
The upset of Alcaraz marked Paul’s fifth win over a Top 10 opponent, and he now owns Top Five wins over Alcaraz, Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev.
“It’s hard not to wake up for the primetime matches like that,” said Paul, No. 34 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. “When I play top-level people, Top Five, Top 10, I’m really excited. When I wake up in the morning, the alarm is not as bad as the normal 6:45 alarm.”
After roaring back from 1-4 down in the third set against Frances Tiafoe to notch his fourth consecutive win over his compatriot, American Taylor Fritz set up a Thursday third-round showdown against Brit Daniel Evans. The pair met last week in Washington, with Fritz retiring in the third set with an illness trailing 3-6, 7-6(6), 4-1.