Maxime Cressy’s rapid rise continued Tuesday in an eye-catching Wimbledon debut. Relying on the serve-and-volley game that dominated the All England Lawn Tennis Club for much of its history, the World No. 45 earned his first Top 10 win by defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime with a near-perfect serving performance.
In a 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(9), 7-6(5) victory, Cressy charged the net 134 times, winning 71 per cent (95/134) of those points. In a match of fine margins, both players dominated on serve. The American saved the lone break point he faced — at 5-5 in the opening set — while sixth seed Auger-Aliassime saved three of four.
“It’s very special,” Cressy said post-match. “Felix was incredibly focussed the whole match. I had to stay focussed until the end. I knew that I would maybe have a few match points and it gets super close. I knew I had to stay in the zone.
“Against a player like him, you have to stay extremely sharp all the time. [He’s an] incredible player. I’m incredibly proud of myself for what I’ve done today.”
The Canadian’s bright start was dimmed when Cressy scored the only break of the match early in set two. But the complexion of the match truly shifted when Cressy won a dramatic third-set tie-break to edge ahead for the first time.
Auger-Aliassime erased a 0/4 deficit in the tie-break, levelling at 5/5 with his third straight point on return. Normal service resumed at the crucial moments, with nine points going the way of the server until a double fault handed Cressy the set. One point before at 9/9, Cressy fired an unreturned 126-mph second serve to bring up his third set point. He previously saved two set points on serve.
With Cressy serving to start the fourth set, he applied constant scoreboard pressure onto his opponent — in addition to the pressure of his relentless attacking game plan. Auger-Aliassime stood firm with his back to the wall and saved a match point at 5-6, Cressy just missing on a potential a return winner.
But the American struck several sweet returns in the tie-break, then clinched the match with another successful serve and volley, carving his 59th winner of the match to close it out after four hours and 10 minutes.
“Honestly, I wasn’t nervous on that serve. I was more nervous for the volley, on the stretch volley,” he shared. “It’s extremely hard to finish these matches against high-seeded players like Felix. A lot of nerves, but it’s an incredible feeling. It’s my first really big win here and my first Wimbledon.”
Both players played a remarkably clean match, with Auger-Aliassime a plus-37 in the winners-to-unforced-errors count behind 64 winners. But it was not enough to stop Cressy, who finished plus-30.
Auger-Aliassime called his opponent a “courageous” and a “deserving” winner, placing Cressy alongside the elite servers on the ATP Tour.
“I knew it was coming, but the quality of the serve was impressive,” he said. “I have played the likes of John Isner, Milos [Raonic], [Reilly] Opelka… he’s definitely with these guys.
“So if he keeps that going… even on hard courts, he’s going to be tough to play,” he continued. “I see him being like those guys, being able to be in the Top 20 and more. We’ll see. He has really high qualities, better than his ranking today.
“Today was not just serve and volley. His serve as amazing. He took his chances when he needed important points.”
The American has endured a rollercoaster season, beginning with a 9-3 record that included a run to the Australian Open fourth round. He then lost 11 of his next 12 matches before returning to form last week in Eastbourne, where he pushed Taylor Fritz to a third-set tie-break in the championship match.
Now 7-4 on the grass at tour-level, Cressy advances to face qualifier Jack Sock in the second round after his countryman earned a 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4 win against Bernabe Zapata Miralles earlier on Tuesday.