Felix Auger-Aliassime has a history of raising his game at the US Open, and the sixth seed needed to do just that to hold off Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard in the first round at Flushing Meadows on Monday.
Auger-Aliassime prevailed 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in an absorbing encounter that featured some devastating baseline hitting from both players. Despite some inspired shotmaking from Ritschard, the Canadian was more clinical at big moments, converting four from eight break point opportunities to complete a hard-earned three-hour, four-minute win.
“There were some good and very positive things in the match, but also know I could play better. There’s room for improvement,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But at the end of the day, the most important [thing] is I got through, finishing well. That puts me in a good place. I’m looking forward to the second round and let’s see how it goes, but just happy that I was able to get the win.”
The boys’ singles champion at Flushing Meadows in 2016, Auger-Aliassime reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final in New York a year ago. He showed flashes of the game that powered that run against Ritschard, with some big serving and trademark heavy striking off his forehand wing. Those weapons were particularly effective under pressure, as the 22-year-old saved 10 from 12 break points he faced.
The sixth seed appeared in control after claiming the solitary break in both the first and second sets on Grandstand, where both he and Ritschard predominately tried to dictate proceedings from deep. Despite Ritschard’s clean hitting taking the Swiss to the third set, the 2021 semi-finalist accelerated to an unassailable 5-1 lead in the fourth as he improved to 37-20 for the 2022 season.
“For sure it’s better to win in three sets, both physically and mentally to feel like you’re in control of everything and you win in three sets. That being said, losing a set, finding a way to win the fourth set, it could be good because these are things that are going to happen in the tournament against tougher players,” Auger-Aliassime said. “To be in that situation in the first round, to dig a little bit deeper, to find different solutions, to lose and then be able to recover and play well again, this is a situation that happens a lot in many tournaments. So that it happened today, now I have a few marks that are better for the rest of the tournament.”
Auger-Aliassime, who lifted his maiden ATP Tour title in Rotterdam in February, currently sits sixth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. The Canadian will next face #NextGenATP Briton Jack Draper, who eliminated Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 after two hours and one minute.
Draper, who is making his US Open debut, hit 20 winners and benefitted from 36 unforced errors off Ruusuvuori’s racquet. The lefty converted all five break points he earned while saving three of the four he faced.