Felix Auger-Aliassime didn’t have things all his own way on debut at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Wednesday, but he stepped up when needed to reach the quarter-finals in Doha.
Competing at the ATP 250 event, the second-seeded Canadian recovered from a slow start to overcome Australian Jason Kubler, advancing 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 after two hours and 16 minutes.
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Auger-Aliassime struggled on return in the first set, winning just 20 per cent (5/25) of his points behind Kubler’s first and second serve. However, he found his range as the match went on, hitting with greater depth and aggression on return in the second and third sets to break the 29-year-old three times.
The 22-year-old, who is up one spot to No. 8 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, has levelled his ATP Head2Head series against Kubler at 1-1.
Auger-Aliasime will face seventh seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Soonwoo Kwon in his second tour-level quarter-final of the season. The four-time tour-level titlist reached the last eight in Rotterdam last week.
Having defeated then-World No. 9 Auger-Aliassime in Newport last year, Kubler was aiming to earn his second victory against the Canadian and the second Top 10 win of his career. The Australian is up three places to No. 71 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings after beating Aslan Karatsev in the first round in Doha.
Top seed Andrey Rublev was also forced to rally from a set down to advance to the quarter-finals, edging Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(6).
The World No. 5, who claimed the Doha title in 2020, had been in danger of suffering his fourth opening-round exit in five appearances this year before fighting his way back from 2-5 in the third set as the two players bludgeoned the ball from the back of the court.
Rublev saved three match points on the Griekspoor serve in the ninth game of the third set and needed three match points of his own in the ensuing tie-break to clinch victory.
He next plays last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up Jiri Lehecka, of the Czech Republic.