Félix Auger-Aliassime is officially on the board in 2019 and he could not have done it in finer fashion.
The 18-year-old from Montreal claimed a brilliantly composed 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 2 seed and World No. 16 Fabio Fognini at the Rio Open, marking the highest-ranked victory of his young career and moving his record against Top 20 opposition to an impressive 2-0 following his defeat of No. 18 Lucas Pouille last summer in Toronto.
After an early tug-of-war in the first set in which both players were forced to save multiple break points, Auger-Aliassime was the one to take control after a brilliant cat-and-mouse point at the net secured him a break in the sixth game. With Fognini serving to stay in the set, the Canadian reeled off five straight points to break for a second time and push himself to a one-set lead over the 2015 finalist.
RIO OPEN ATP 500: Felix Auger-Aliassime wins first set 6-2 v No. 16-ranked Fabio Fognini – Felix playing well but Fognini is pretty sketchy. Fognini has lost in his opening match at his two previous South American events in Argentina – Cordoba and Buenos Aires.
— Tom Tebbutt (@tomtebbutt) February 19, 2019
Auger-Aliassime remained in the driver’s seat in the second set, breaking the mercurial Italian early on and continuing his brutally efficient pattern of sharply angled backhands and crisp forehands down the line. His focus was unwavering until the final game, where, leading 40-15 while serving for the match, he sprayed three consecutive errors to allow Fognini a break point. Yet with maturity beyond his years, Auger-Aliassime buckled down and tidied up his game, saving two more break points before ultimately sealing the biggest win of his career.
The kids are alright 🇨🇦
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 19, 2019
The victory not only secures Auger-Aliassime $24,560 USD and 45 precious ranking points, but it vaults him into the ATP Tour’s Top 100, a symbolic milestone for the Canadian, who fell just short of that ranking goal at the end of 2018.
Up next for Auger-Aliassime is a rematch of last week’s first-round loss to former French Open junior champion Christian Garin, who won 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 over the 2016 US Open junior champ last week in Buenos Aires.
(Photo: Rio Open)