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PREVIEW: Aliassime and Hurkacz face off in Terra Wortmann Open quarter-final

This should be an intriguing clash between close friends Felix Auger Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz. Both of these players have grown into capable grass-court practitioners over the last year.

Hubert Hurkacz - Terra Wortmann Open
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

This should be an intriguing clash between close friends Felix Auger Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz. Both of these players have grown into capable grass-court practitioners over the last year.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Felix Auger-Aliassime 58/100 | Hubert Hurkacz 13/10

This should be an intriguing clash between close friends Felix Auger Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz. Both of these players have grown into capable grass-court practitioners over the last year.

In fact, the pair were responsible for ruining Roger Federer’s 2021 grass-court season. Auger-Aliassime defeated Federer in this event last year while Hurkacz knocked Federer out of his beloved Wimbledon.

These two are growing into formidable grass-court players and this match could be a Wimbledon dress rehearsal.

I feel like I write about this Canadian quite often. I thought that winning in Rotterdam earlier this year would be a real catalyst for Aliassime. He finally got that pesky monkey off his back (the monkey in question being his first ATP Tour title).

But he hasn’t really been able to kick on following that triumph. Back-to-back first-round defeats in the ‘Sunshine Double’ came as a huge surprise. And despite his collaboration with Toni Nadal, the Canadian failed to go beyond the quarterfinal of any of his clay-court tournaments.

But the switch to grass seems to have done the trick for Aliassime. He reached the semi-finals in last week’s Libema Open and he has grown into proceedings in Halle.

He was slightly off-key in his opening match against Marci Giron, eventually overpowering the American in three sets. But he looked at his ruthless best against yet another American: Mackenzie McDonald.

He served a whopping 15 aces and won 80% of his first-serve points. He hit 41 winners in a peerless display of grass-court tennis. Seriously, that 2nd set was as close to perfection as you can get.

As I alluded to earlier, Aliassime beat Federer in Halle last year en route to a semi-final showing. That preceded his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal run at Wimbledon.

I think you can attribute Aliassime’s success on grass to one thing: simplicity. He doesn’t have time to overthink and thus overcomplicate. He serves big and keeps the forehand ticking. Pete Sampras forged a pretty decent grass-court career out of that foundation.

There is a more than a touch of Marin Cilic about Hubert Hurcazk. Like the Croat, the tall Pole uses his serve to dictate proceedings. He is also surprisingly spry for such a tall guy, earning a reputation over the years as an on-court diver (ala Boris Becker).

These are all classical traits of grass-court specialists. Hurkacz has enjoyed a very consistent season, reaching the semi-finals in Dubai before a valiant title defence in Miami (where he would also reach the semi-final stage).

His Masters 1000 victory in Miami last year was one of two huge results for the Pole in 2021 (the other being that remarkable semi-final run at last year’s Wimbledon Championships).

He beat Danil Medvedev in the fourth round before that seismic shock against Federer in the quarterfinals.

This year’s grass-court season has thus far held mixed blessings for Hurkacz. He was eliminated in the first round of the singles at last week’s Boss Open. But he did go on to win the doubles title alongside partner Mate Pavic.

His tournament thus far bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Aliassime. He had a slightly grueling opening round match against the tricksy Maxime Cressey.

But he looked back to his best against defending Halle champ Ugo Humbert, hitting 10 aces and winning a cool 82% of first-serve points.

Verdict: Auger-Aliassime to win in three sets at 11/4

Aliassime leads the head-to-head 2-0. In fact, Aliassime beat Hurkacz on these very courts last year. He also beat the Pole in straight-sets during the 2019 Miami Open.

That’s a significant result when you consider that Hurkacz has become a Miami monster in recent years. This is a matchup of similar styles. Both players will look to dominate on serve and shorten the exchanges.

It all comes down to who can generate the best first-serve numbers. I just think that Aliassime has a bit more variety and could destabilize Hurkacz on return. But I can easily see this going to three sets.

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