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Lehecka Retires in Pain, Sending Auger-Aliassime Into Maiden Madrid Final

MADRID, SPAIN – MAY 03: Jiri Lehecka of Czechia is embraced by Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada at the net after having to retire due to injury following the Men’s Singles semi-final match on Day Eleven of the Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja Magica on May 03, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

This Mutua Madrid Open reminds us clay-court tennis can be a punishing experience.

Felix Auger-Aliassime made a Masters mark after Jiri Lehecka’s painful exit from today’s Madrid semifinals.

World No. 35 Auger-Aliassime advanced to his maiden Mutua Madrid Open final—and first Masters 1000 final—when Lehecka retired from their semifinal suffering apparent back spasms.

“Sorry for you Jiri, you’ll be back,” Auger-Aliassime wrote on the court-side camera after scoring his fifth consecutive win though not nearly the way he wanted.

“I feel really bad for him, I’ve had injuries myself,” Auger-Aliassime said afterward. “We can all imagine what it feels like to come out on a night like this, hoping to win, to go through. Having a battle your opponent and not being able to play.

“I have a lot of empathy for Jiri. I can’t do anything but try to prepare for Sunday.”

Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Casper Ruud, 6-4, 7-5, in the round of 16, took a walkover from top-seeded Jannik Sinner into today’s semifinal. 

Returning to court after a medical timeout to treat his cranky back, Lehecka won two points to go up 30-love in the seventh game of the match.

Trying to change direction, Lehecka grimaced, leaned on his racquet and crumpled to the court in clear agony.

The 30th-seeded Czech retired at 3-all, 30-15 sending Auger-Aliassime into Sunday’s final against Andrey Rublev.

Earlier, eighth-ranked Rublev defeated Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-3 to advance to his 25th career final at the Mutua Madrid Open today.

The 23-year-old Auger-Aliassime is the first Canadian to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final on clay and third Canadian ATP Masters 1000 finalist since the series began in 1990.

Former world No. 6 Auger-Aliassime, whose career has been stalled by injury, is through to his 15th ATP final. Auger-Aliassime, who lost the first eight finals of his career, will play for a sixth career title on Sunday against Rublev. The 2023 Monte-Carlo champion Rublev is 4-1 vs. Auger-Aliassime with four of their five meetings going the three-set distance.

Before today’s second semifinal started, Lehecka was clutching at his lower back while taking shadow swings in the gym.

The score was even after six games when the physio started a medical evaluation on Lehecka, who seemed to be suffering a lower back injury.

After about 25 minutes, Lehecka and the physio left the court for treatment.

Returning to court clutching a white towel, Lehecka resumed play at the 31 minute mark.

The Czech won the first two points after play resumed. After serving the third point, Lehecka turned, leaned on his racquet and toppled to the clay clearly in pain. Lehecka signaled to Auger-Aliassime he was done and walked to net.

Auger-Aliassime, who has suffered through a litany of injuries himself, gave an emotional embrace to Lehecka at net.