Felix Auger-Aliassime backhand

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Félix Auger-Aliassime didn’t get the start he was looking for on Sunday during his Nitto ATP Finals debut in Turin, Italy.

The 22-year-old, who became the first Canadian to qualify for the prestigious season-ending championships since Milos Raonic in 2016, fell 7-6(4), 6-4 to Norway’s Casper Ruud in his first match of the group stage. Auger-Aliassime appeared a bit tight from the outset and was never able to get his game in full flight, the same way we saw during his remarkable four-week indoor hard court swing that saw him capture three consecutive ATP titles.

READ: Auger-Aliassime Ready for ATP Finals Debut

The opening set went by with neither player facing a break point. In the tiebreak, Auger-Aliassime hit an ill-timed double fault to give Ruud a 4-2 lead. He got the mini break back right away but proceeded to lose both of his service points from 5-4 to give his opponent a one-set lead. Until the tiebreak, the Canadian lost zero second serve points and ended up losing three in the breaker at the worst possible time. He also made a few costly backhand errors, and his footwork was not as dynamic as he’s shown during this run.

His struggle to win second serve points carried over to the second set. While he made some inroads on Ruud’s serve, he still couldn’t generate a break point and he was ultimately broken on a double fault in the seventh game, making the hill too steep to climb to get back into the contest.  

Ruud, a two-time Grand Slam finalist this season, was dominant on serve throughout and utilized his impressive forehand to great effectiveness. He presented a solid all-around game and each time Auger-Aliassime had a slight opening to get back into the match, the Norwegian shut the door with smart tactics. He has now won three of his four meetings against Auger-Aliassime as the Canadian was unable to avenge the lopsided loss he suffered at the hands of Ruud in front of his hometown fans at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal this summer.

Auger-Aliassime still has two more matches to play within the Green Group against Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz. The top two at the conclusion of the sequence of three matches will advance to the semifinals.