MELBOURNE, Australia | Félix Auger-Aliassime was hot. Not necessarily on the pitch, as his second-round match took place under the closed roof of Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on a chilly, rainy Wednesday.
• Also read: Australian Open: Leylah’s “mental strength”
• Also read: Australia international: Katherine Sebov wants more after touching her dream
No, if Félix was hot, it was more because nothing worked for the Quebecer against Slovak Alex Molcan, 53rd in the world, in two rounds. So much so that “FAA” quickly found his back against the wall, a set after an early exit at the Australian Open.
However, the sixth favorite managed to up their game at the right time while Molcan, who had had a few strokes of genius since the start of the match, gradually lost touch.
And for the second time in his career, after his first round at Roland-Garros last year, Auger-Aliassime thereby overcame a two-set deficit to eventually win 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6: 2 and 6-2, in 3 h 02 min.
“As long as I’m on the field, I try to find solutions to give myself a chance to win,” stressed Félix at a press conference. There is also a bit of luck involved, your opponent must not play too well, otherwise the match will slip away from you.
“Yes, it takes perseverance. But luck too, he added. Generally, if you lose two sets to clear, you don’t win.
Looking for solutions
Felix was placed in front of the journalists. It didn’t happen the whole game. The pride of L’Ancienne-Lorette seemed frustrated at times. The very slow playing conditions presented him with a problem. Just like the balls that forced him to adjust his tennis, to hit it flatter.
Auger-Aliassime was also looking for solutions. Because his entry into the Melbourne scene is not as easy as he would have liked. Already on Monday he had to fight for victory against his compatriot and friend Vasek Pospisil for four sets – and four hours.
The Quebecer and the Slovak have faced each other before. It was last year on clay in Marrakech and Félix had lost in three tight sets.
On Monday, the “FAA” also described his 25-year-old rival as a player with a nice touch. Molcan showed this several times in the first two sets and skillfully put the ball behind his rivals. Even his left-handed serve didn’t help Félix to find his way into the game.
Added to this were the many unforced errors of the 22-year-old racquet. Auger-Aliassime signed 48 in total, including 25 in the first two sets.
All in a rather seedy atmosphere, the stands of Margaret Court Stadium, the third largest in Melbourne Park, were only half full for this meeting, although meetings on the other pitches had not started due to rain.
There was indeed “Los Félix!” here and there, but nothing that roused the Quebecer, who looked more at his box for motivation.
“Walk on the square [mercredi]”I wanted to be more aggressive than in my first game and I think the first games weren’t bad,” he analyzed. I felt good. But after the first five games the balls wore out and that’s when I started making mistakes.
“I found him more comfortable than me in terms of the conditions. I tried to develop my usual game, to go more forward, to let go of my shots, but I wasn’t very precise.
Concentrate on your game
Félix promises: he will not make these balls, which dissolve quickly, a recurring theme during these fortnight. You’re not going to change anyway.
“In the third set I said to myself if it was going to be my last of the tournament I would try to make him work as much as possible. I didn’t want to make mistakes all the time.”
The strategy worked. In the middle of the third set, “FAA” offered his first break point of the game and finally extracted the Slovakian’s service.
It was then the end of Molcan’s magic, who in turn began adding up the unforced errors. Félix never looked back, slipping away with the final three sets and the win.
Of course, Auger-Aliassime now wants to continue on the path he took at the end of the game. Either against Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo, 28th favorite, or against Frenchman Corentin Moutet, 62nd in the world.
But regardless of the type of player he’ll face Thursday night or Thursday night through Friday Eastern time, Felix knows he needs to focus on his own tennis first.
“The main thing is that I have to play better. I have to improve my level of play, regardless of the opponent. From the next meeting and for the following ones, if there are any, I have to play better,” he admitted.
Do you have any information about this story that you would like to share with us?
Do you have a scoop that might be of interest to our readers?
Write to us or call us directly at 1-800-63SCOOP.