MISE À DAY
MELBOURNE, Australia | Félix Auger-Aliassime was hot. Not necessarily on the pitch, as their second-round match was played under the closed roof of Margaret Court Arena on a cool, rainy Wednesday in Melbourne.
No, if Félix was hot, it was rather because during two rounds, nothing worked for the Quebecer against the Slovak Alex Molcan, 53rd in the world. So much so that “FAA” quickly found themselves with their backs to the wall, one set away from early elimination at the Australian Open.
But the sixth seed was able to raise his game a notch at the right time, while Molcan was gradually losing his touch, he who had managed a few strokes of genius since the start of the meeting.
And for the second time in his career, after his first round at Roland-Garros last year, Auger-Aliassime thus overcame a two-set deficit to zero, ultimately winning 3-6, 3-6, 6- 3, 6-2 and 6-2, in 3 h 02 min.
“As long as I am on the field, I try to find solutions, to give myself chances to win, pointed out Felix at a press conference. It also takes a bit of luck, your opponent must not play too well, otherwise you will see the match slipping away from you.”
“Yes, it takes resilience. But also luck, he added. Generally, when you lose two rounds to zero, you don't win.”
In search of solutions
In front of the journalists, Félix was calm. It didn't happen the whole game. The pride of L'Ancienne-Lorette sometimes seemed frustrated. The playing conditions, very slow, posed a problem for him. Just like the balls, which forced him to adapt his tennis, to hit more flat.
Auger-Aliassime was also looking for solutions. Because his entry on the scene in Melbourne is not as easy as he would have liked. Already on Monday, against his compatriot and friend Vasek Pospisil, he had to fight for four sets – and four hours – to win.
The Quebecer and the Slovak had already faced each other once. It was last year on clay in Marrakech and Félix lost in three tight sets.
On Monday, “FAA” had also described his 25-year-old rival as a player with a nice touch. Molcan showed this on several occasions in the first two sets, skillfully bringing the ball behind his rival. His left-handed serve didn't help Félix settle into the game either.
Added to this were the many faults direct the racket of 22 years. Auger-Aliassime committed 48 in total, including 25 in the first two sets.
All in a fairly moribund atmosphere, the stands of the Margaret Court stadium, the third largest in Melbourne Park, were only half full for this meeting, even if the meetings had not started on the other grounds due to rain.
There were indeed “go Félix!” here and there, but nothing to galvanize the Quebecer, who looked more towards his box to motivate himself.
“Going on the court [Wednesday], I wanted to be more aggressive than I had been in my first game, and I think the first games were not bad, he analyzed. I felt good. But after the first five games, the balls were worn out and that's when I started making mistakes.”
“I found him more comfortable for the conditions, more than me. I was trying to develop my usual game, go more forward, let go of my shots, but I wasn't very precise.”
Focusing on your game
Félix promises: he won't make these quickly disintegrating balls a recurring subject in this fortnight. They won't change anyway.
“In the third round, I said to myself that if it was to be my last of the tournament, I was going to try to make him work as much as possible. I didn't want to keep making mistakes.”
The strategy worked. In the middle of the third set, “FAA” offered its first break point of the game and finally extracted the service from the Slovak.
It was then over with the magic of Molcan, who in turn began to add up the unforced errors. Félix never looked back again, spinning with the last three sets and the victory.
Auger-Aliassime now wants to continue on the path he took at the end of the match, of course . It will be either against the Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo, 28th favorite, or against the French Corentin Moutet, 62nd in the world.
But no matter the nature of the player he will face Thursday evening or in the night from Thursday to Friday EST, Felix knows he has to focus on his own tennis first.
“The main thing is that I have to play better. I have to raise my level of play, regardless of the opponent. From the next meeting, and for the following ones, if there are any, I will have to play better”, he conceded.
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