05:02 AM GMT February 21, 2019
Revenge is best served cold, but why wait if you don't have to? #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime earned some payback on Wednesday night, and in the process, guaranteed his best showing yet at an ATP 500 tournament.
The 18-year-old beat Chile's Christian Garin 7-5, 6-4 at the Rio Open presented by Claro to reach his first ATP 500 quarter-final. Last week, the 22-year-old Garin came back from a set down against Auger-Aliassime in the first round of the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires.
But the teenager kept his poise on Quadra Central, breaking five times and serving out the match to love. Auger-Aliassime seems to be even surprising himself this week. After match point, he dropped his racquet and wore a look of disbelief.
"I didn't know what to expect when I came here. I hadn't won many matches this year. I knew I was playing well, from the practices," said Auger-Aliassime, who was 1-3 at tour-level this season before this week. "I thought I had a chance to have tournaments like this this year. I came in, believed in my game, and I think it's paying off now. I think I dig deep physically in these conditions, and I was also able to stay really tough mentally."
The 18-year-old aced public relations and earned a few more fans in Rio. During his celebratory post-match dance on court, Auger-Aliassime tossed on a Brazilian football shirt, a gift from a friend earlier in the day, with one word emblazoned on the back: “Felix”.
He will face another up-and-coming player in Jaume Munar for a place in the semi-finals. The 21-year-old Spaniard fought past Brit Cameron Norrie 7-6(6), 5-7, 7-6(4) to reach his first ATP 500 quarter-final. Munar made the semi-finals of the 21-and-under Next Gen ATP Finals last November in Milan.
“I'm feeling happy for the win, but I also know I have to improve in a lot of things. I had many chances in the second, also chances before the tie-break in the final set,” Munar said. “My sentence in my head was just battle for every point.”
Hugo Dellien gave his home nation of Bolivia another reason to celebrate. The 25-year-old beat 2018 Ecuador Open champion Roberto Carballes Baena 7-5, 6-4 to make the quarter-finals. Before this week, no male player from Bolivia had won an ATP Tour or Grand Slam match in 35 years.
“This week has been a dream to me. The past two I struggled, trying to qualify in Cordoba and Buenos Aires, and now I'm playing the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event. It's been a long time since Bolivia had a tennis player winning matches so this means a lot to me and my country,” Dellien said. “I'm really happy and extremely proud. I never thought people would travel to Rio to see me play. My goal for this year was to be a Top 100 player, and now I guess I can dream about the Top 50.”
He will face Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene, who knocked out home favourite Thiago Monteiro 6-3, 6-4 to make his second consecutive Rio quarter-final.