Photo: Martin Sidorjak
It was opening of the Australian Open for Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime on Monday and he started the tournament on the right foot. The world No. 9 defeated world no. 90 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in five sets of 6-4, 0-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round for the second time in his career.
This was the first professional match between the two players. Despite the big gap between them in the ATP rankings, the Quebec native had to be wary of the Finn, who reached the semifinals of the Melbourne event just a few days ago before falling to Spain’s Rafael Nadal.
The match started slowly for Auger-Aliassime. Although he had five break points in the third game, the Montrealer was not able to take advantage of the multiple opportunities his opponent offered him. He even found himself in trouble quickly when Ruusovuori managed to break him in the fifth game of the first set to lead 4-2. However, Auger-Aliassime was far from shaken. Resilient, he methodically turned things around by winning four consecutive games to finally win the set 6-4.
However, the Finn had not said his last word. As soon as the hostilities resumed, Ruusovuori evened things up by orchestrating a perfect 6-0 set, hitting ten winners and winning 75% of his serve points, compared to just 11% for the Canadian. The demolition job took only 26 minutes, a significant contrast to the first set which lasted over an hour.
Things didn’t get much better for the Canadian in the third frame. Although he showed more poise, he was unable to stop the Finn from coming back with a vengeance. Once again, Ruusovuori was impressive on serve (89% of first serve points won and 75% on the second). He was able to take advantage of an unfortunate double fault by Auger-Aliassime in the eighth game to break and bring the score to 5-3. He closed out the set a few minutes later to take a two sets to one lead in the match.
But as the saying goes in sports, it’s not over until it’s over.
Auger-Aliassime imposed himself early in the fourth set. Leading 2-1, he broke his opponent and then managed to come back from 0-40 down on his own serve to win two consecutive games and take an important lead that he kept to force a decisive set.
In the end, it was the Canadian who came out on top in the final set. As in the previous frame, the world No. 9 broke first to lead 4-2. He remained in control of the match and went on to win 6-4, completing this great battle after three hours and 43 minutes.
In the round two, Auger-Aliassime will face world no. 50 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain. Fokina, who is making his third appearance in Melbourne, reached the second round in 2020.