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Canadian Auger-Aliassime reaches first Masters final in Madrid with another walkover

Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, embraces Jiri Lehecka, of the Czech Republic, after a semi-final match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, Friday, May 3, 2024. (Bernat Armangue, The Canadian Press) Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, embraces Jiri Lehecka, of the Czech Republic, after a semi-final match at the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Spain, Friday, May 3, 2024. (Bernat Armangue, The Canadian Press)
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Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime has advanced to his first ATP Masters final, and he hasn't had to play all that much tennis to do it.

Auger-Aliassime moved on to the final of the Madrid Open clay-court tournament Friday after semifinal opponent Jiri Lehecka of Czechia retired due to injury with their match tied 3-3 in the first set.

Lehecka left court for treatment from a physio with what appeared to be back pain. He tried to continue playing, but withdrew three points later.

"I feel really bad for him," Auger-Aliassime said. "I've had injuries myself, and we can imagine how it feels to come out on a night like this, hoping to win to go through, having a battle with your opponent, and not being able to play. I have a lot of empathy for Jiri, and I can't do anything but try to prepare for Sunday."

Auger-Aliassime didn't even take the court in the quarterfinals when his opponent, top-seeded Jannik Sinner, withdrew from the tournament with a hip injury.

The 23-year-old Canadian also advanced by walkover in the third round when Jakub Mensik of Czechia retired from that match. Auger-Aliassime was leading 6-1, 1-0.

"It's crazy. I don't know if it's ever happened to a player before," said Auger-Aliassime. "It's kind of a weird situation to be in on my part. It's never happened to me in my career so far, a withdrawal or a walkover or retirement of this sort, and back-to-back like this."

When Auger-Aliassime has played in Madrid, he has looked good. He posted a convincing 6-4, 7-5 win over fifth-seed Casper Ruud of Norway on the fourth round and easily handled 19th-seed Adrian Mannarino of France 6-0, 6-4 in the second round.

Auger-Aliassime will face seventh-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev in Sunday's final. Rublev advances with a 6-4, 6-3 win over American Taylor Fritz on Friday.

Rublev is 4-1 against Auger-Aliassime over his career, including a win on their only meeting on clay at the 2018 Croatian Open.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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