Photo : Mauricio Paiz/Tennis Canada
Part two of the Sunshine Double got off to a similar start as the first installment for Félix Auger-Aliassime, as he had to battle to put away a tricky opponent in his opening match at the Miami Open.
But Auger-Aliassime was up to the challenge, playing his best tennis when it mattered most and grinding past Thiago Monteiro in two tiebreak sets 7-6(5), 7-6(8).
The margins were razor thin throughout the match, but Auger-Aliassime put himself in a strong position by winning 86 per cent of his first serve points and never granting his opponent a break point chance, although the Canadian failed to convert all five of his. Overall, he won 78 per cent of his service points.
Auger-Aliassime was also the cleaner of the two with 23 unforced errors to his opponent’s 25, while he fired 32 winners to the Brazilian’s 19.
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Through much of the first set, Monteiro did a good job preventing Auger-Aliassime from dictating points by defending well and turning defence into offence whenever possible. As a result, he hung with the Canadian throughout.
However, cracks began to appear late in the first set and Auger-Aliassime had two chances to break for the set at 5-4, but Monteiro saved the first with a huge forehand winner and the Canadian sent his return long on the second.
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After serve dominated the opening set, four of the first five points of the tiebreak went to the returner. A backhand winner down the line proved decisive for Auger-Aliassime as it gave him the last minibreak he needed, finally converting his fifth set point, but first on his serve, to wrap up the opening set.
A trio of break points came and went for the Canadian early in the second set before the pair settled back into the slugfest that had consumed much of the first set.
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Unlike the first set tiebreak, the servers dominated. A minibreak on the first point looked to be enough for Auger-Aliassime as he hung on to lead 6-4, but double faulted on the first match point before missing a forehand long on the second, which was on the Brazilian’s serve.
The serve did bail the Canadian out when he saved a set point with a huge serve at 6-7. After missing another match point, a Monteiro framed forehand gave Auger-Aliassime a second chance to serve it out and this time the Brazilian missed a volley to bring the straight-set match to a close after two hours and 41 minutes.
A familiar face awaits Auger-Aliassime in the third round as he will meet Francisco Cerundolo for the third time in 2023 and for a second event in a row. The Canadian won their previous meetings at the Australian Open and earlier this month in Indian Wells.