felix auger-aliassime stands with runner-up trophy

Photo: TSN Sports

Félix Auger-Aliassime’s wait for a first ATP Tour title will have to go on a bit longer, as the 20 year old finishes runner up to Daniel Evans of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the Murray River Open in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.

With a total of seven ATP Tour finals under his belt, it’s easy to forget that the Montreal native is still just 20 years old. Though he has already made many great strides in his young career, Auger-Aliassime has struggled to get past the milestone of his first tour-level title. That pressure ultimately told the tale of the Canadian’s final stat sheet, which featured 16 winners to 32 unforced errors and just 58% of first serves won.

Kicking off the first set with a sizzling ace down the tee, Auger-Aliassime dictated points with focused conviction through the first four games. Evans, however, was able to weave a web of short backhand slices and spinny forehands, tempting the Canadian into errors off both wings. Feeling a sudden pressure in his service games, Auger-Aliassime struck two double faults in the fifth game of the to give Evans his first break point of the match – and he’d only need the one.

Up a break and playing with measure and control, the British No. 1 didn’t need to do much, capitalizing on a flurry of errors from an increasingly erratic Auger-Aliassime. 6-2 would be the score of the first set, going the way of Evans courtesy of 17 unforced errors off the Canadian’s racquet as well as his own steady play.

The second set threatened to follow a similar playbook as the first, with Evans stepping in on vulnerable Auger-Aliassime second serves to generate two break points. Though an impressive first serve would save the first, another unforced error would gift the second – and with it the lead to Evans.

Unable to find his footing and consistently being dragged into uncomfortable volleys at the net by the No. 8 seed’s varying depth and spins, Auger-Aliassime relinquished a second break of serve in the seventh game of the second set, all but securing the win for Evans.

Yet with the finish line – and his own maiden ATP Tour title – in sight, Evans blinked. In his loosest game of the match, the Brit hit an untimely double fault and sent an overhead well long of the baseline to gift a break back to No. 3-seeded Auger-Aliassime.

The Canadian, however, was ultimately unable to capitalize on the swing in momentum. With his level far from the heights it reached in his 6-1, 6-2 semi-final demolition of Corentin Moutet, Auger-Aliassime dropped serve for a fifth and final time to hand Evans his first tour-level title.

Although he will be disappointed with a seventh consecutive runner-up finish, Auger-Aliassime can find solace in the fact that he’s set to return to the Top 20 in the ATP Rankings, from his current position at No. 21 to No. 19 when the rankings list is updated on Monday.

The 20 year old won’t have much time to dwell on the result of Sunday’s final. The Australian Open, after overcoming many pandemic-related hurdles along the way, is set to kick off in less than 24 hours, with the Canadian No. 3 – now a seven-time ATP Tour runner-up – set to play on the opening day against Cedrik Marcel Stebe.

All Australian Open action will be broadcast on RDS and TSN over the next two weeks.