Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada gestures during his second round match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)
No. 8 seed Auger-Aliassime will meet world No. 1 Djokovic for the first time Friday at the Italian Open
The quarter-final match will take place May 13 at 3pm ET
Read on as we break down the match between the young Canadian and one of the best of all time
Félix Auger-Aliassime, still just 21, has played just over 200 singles matches at the ATP Tour level.
Finally, on Friday, he gets to play world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
With Carlos Alcaraz a late scratch, Djokovic was the Italian Open pre-tournament favorite.
Djokovic vs Auger-Aliassime Odds
 Novak Djokovic (SRB)
O 20.5 (-110)
 Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
U 20.5 (-120)
Odds as of May 12 at Caesars Sportsbook
Auger-Aliassime Almost Out in the Second Round
The No. 1 vs No. 8 seed matchup was the expected one on paper for this quarterfinal.
But Auger-Aliassime came close to being ousted from the tournament before it had barely begun.
A few points going the other way in a second-set tiebreak, with his lower back barking at him, and the 21-year old would have been out to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.
But he prevailed, even if it took three hours to do it.
Auger-Aliassime had little problem dispatching lucky loser Marcos Giron Thursday.
The 6-3, 6-2 victory took less than 90 minutes, leaving the Canadian with plenty of time to rest and recover for the big showdown with Djokovic.
Djokovic vs Auger-Aliassime Head-to-Head
34 (May 22, 1987)
21 (Aug. 8, 2000)
Career ATP Singles Titles
No. 1 (July 4, 2011)
Career High Ranking
No. 9 (Jan. 10, 2022)
Career Prize Money
2022 Won/Loss record
Career Head to Head
Djokovic Eases Past Wawrinka
That Stan Wawrinka, at 37, even made the third round in Rome at all was already a victory after two recent knee surgeries and a long, arduous rehab.
Wawrinka had already played Djokovic 25 times and was 6-19. Although he had won the last two – both at the US Open, in 2016 and 2019. A long time ago.
On Friday, it took Djokovic just an hour and 15 minutes to take care of business, 6-2, 6-2.
Wawrinka’s first serve went in at just a 42% clip. And he was only able to break Djokovic once, while the Serb returned the favor five times.
Here’s the Best Barstool Sportsbook Promo Code for May
Night Tennis New for Auger-Aliassime and Djokovic
The clash will be a late-night match, something new for both players this week; it’s not likely to start before 9pm in Rome (3pm ET).
As warm as it’s been in Rome all week, the cooler night temperatures will change how quickly the ball flies through the air, and likely require some adjustment to string tension.
Djokovic, funnily enough, thought he had already played the Canadian – no doubt because of their mutual residency in Monte Carlo for several years, and multiple practice sessions.
“I thought I did (play him). There are not many players that I never played. He’s been around for a few years. Interesting we never faced each other,” Djokovic said. “I think he’s been improving a lot on clay. He’s been working with Toni Nadal for last couple years, who has definitely been contributing to his game on clay. He’s an established top-20, top-10 player for few years. Very complete game. Very nice guy. Works hard. He’s one of the leaders of the next generation.”
So he likes him.
Djokovic vs Auger-Aliassime Prediction
Auger-Aliassime’s odds against Djokovic aren’t as dramatic as those fellow 21-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu, is facing against the women’s No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
His friend and countryman Denis Shapovalov is at least a shot, in his own quarterfinal against No. 5 seed Casper Ruud.
Even if Djokovic isn’t back to full imperious mode yet, he’s not far.
He’s the best returner in the game. So even a great serving day by the Canadian might not be enough on clay.
His backhand is flawless. And with it he can expose Auger-Aliassime’s lesser stroke in cross-court rallies.
Not only that, he’s hugely popular in Rome and speaks Italian well. So it will be tough for Auger-Aliassime to carve out a big portion of the crowd support.
The top spot is on the line in Rome 👀
The @PepperstoneFX ATP Live Rankings show that Djokovic must reach the semi-finals to remain No. 1.#ATPRankings pic.twitter.com/l4eO33nnFK
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 12, 2022
You want more motivation? Djokovic needs to win this match and make the semifinals to maintain his No. 1 ranking (and seed) going into the French Open.
So it feels like it could be a tough day for the Canadian.
But there are few tennis prop bets that might be valuable. For example, an early break for Djokovic – a 4-2 score in the first set – will pay off at +175.
Best Bet: Djokovic in Two Sets (-210)