Rome, Young Canadian tennis player Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied past in-form Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 to reach the Italian Open third round, while countrymate and 13th seed Denis Shapovalov defeated Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 7-6(5) to also advance in the tournament.
The 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime had his back against the wall on Tuesday evening in Rome, but the Canadian star found a way to win, with the eighth seed rallying past the Spaniard after three hours and two minutes.
"It's a great win. Great for my confidence to be able to spend three hours on the clay. Very encouraging for what's to come here and in Paris," Auger-Aliassime was quoted as saying by atptour.com.
"I feel good physically. I was able to battle it out with one of the best young clay-court players we have in the game right now. He's not playing this way by accident. He's (Davidovich Fokina) playing really well consistently, so it's a great win for me."
After the first set, a victory looked far from certain. Davidovich Fokina stormed through the end of the opening set and Auger-Aliassime then took a medical timeout to receive treatment on his back.
"At the end of the first set I went for a slide forehand and something tweaked in my back. I just felt a sharp pain, so I thought it would be good to get some treatment, some medication," Auger-Aliassime said. "But after it felt okay. It's not the best, but it feels good."
Auger-Aliassime will next face 12th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina or American lucky loser Marcos Giron. "Third set was the best of all, for sure. It's great to finish that way and it's very encouraging for what is to come," added Auger-Aliassime.
Another Canadian, 13th seed Denis Shapovalov, defeated Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 7-6(5). The lefty will challenge third seed Rafael Nadal or big-serving American John Isner for a place in the quarterfinals.
Shapovalov only faced one break point against 2021 Indian Wells finalist Basilashvili and he saved it. The 23-year-old won 85 per cent of his first-serve points in his one-hour, 40-minute victory.