LONDON (Reuters) - A tantalising glimpse of a future men’s tennis rivalry ended with Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to become the youngest player in 20 years to reach the semi-finals of the Queen’s Club championships on Friday.
The 18-year-old continued a remarkable year with 7-5 6-2 defeat of the floppy-haired Greek who most believe is the most likely of the new generation to start winning Grand Slams.
He is the youngest player to reach the semis at the prestigious Wimbledon warm-up tournament since Lleyton Hewitt, also 18 in 1999. Given the way he has taken to the London lawns, it would be no surprise if he emulated Boris Becker who famously won the title as a 17-year-old in 1985.
Blocking his path next will be 37-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, the 2017 Queen’s champion, who prevented an all-Canadian semi-final by beating Milos Raonic 4-6 6-4 7-6(5).
In the other side of the draw fourth seed Daniil Medvedev became the first Russian to reach the semi-finals of the tournament in the professional era as he had too much firepower for Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.
Medvedev, 23, used his skidding ground strokes to great effect in a 6-2 6-2 win. He will play Frenchmen Gilles Simon who beat compatriot Nicolas Mahut 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(3) in a match lasting three hours 20 minutes.
“It’s great to be the first Russian to be in the semi-finals and a bit surprising, maybe it’s the first time I made history! Now I want to put the bar a bit higher,” Medvedev, who is at a career-high 13 in the rankings, said.
Teenager Auger-Aliassime was ranked outside the top 100 at the start of the year but has rocketed up the charts to 21.
Despite playing his third match in 24 hours after rain delays earlier in the week, he looked as fresh as a daisy against world number six Tsitsipas, who lacked his usual spark after a similarly busy schedule on Thursday.
Auger-Aliassime, who mixes easy power off both wings, athleticism and a heavy-duty serve, had already seen off Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios on his Queen’s debut.
And once he had staved off a couple of break points early on against Tsitsipas and pounced to break in the 12th game he dominated to maintain the hold over the Greek he beat three times when they met as juniors.
The Canadian broke in the second game of the second set and a weary-looking Tsitsipas, who required some treatment on his shoulder, faded fast.
Afterwards, a candid Tsitsipas claimed Auger-Aliassime was a better player than him, despite leading him in the rankings and being the youngest player to have wins over Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
“He’s the most difficult opponent I’ve ever faced, and I think it’s going to take a couple of tries to beat him,” Tsitsipas said. “I have to accept that he’s better than me.”
Auger-Aliassime, remarkably composed for someone so young, played down those comments, but oozes confidence.
“I think this year I just kind of found my rhythm, I just found my beat, and I think I have been on the right track,” Auger-Aliassime, who had never played a Tour level grasscourt tournament before reaching the final in Stuttgart last week, said. “I feel I can go all the way here.”
Home favourite Andy Murray, back from a six-month injury lay-off, was in late evening action with Lopez in the doubles but bad light intervened as they led 6-4 4-5 against British pair Dan Evans and Ken Skupski.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Hugh Lawson and Christian Radnedge