Felix Auger-Aliassime pumps his fist.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Felix Auger-Aliassime is off to a winning start on the clay. The 23-year-old Canadian displayed a composed and physical brand of tennis on the red dirt, overwhelming qualifier Luca Nardi 6-2, 6-3 in 82 minutes to advance to the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters.

In front of a full crowd on Court Rainier III in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, the former world no. 6 delivered a prompt reminder of the level of tennis he can produce when healthy and confident.

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After five consecutive exchanges of service holds to begin the match, the Montreal native drew first blood in the sixth game of the first set. At deuce, he would hit a perfectly measured drop shot winner off his backhand side. He then broke serve on a beautifully constructed point, closing with a well-timed swinging forehand volley to secure the 4-2 advantage.

With Nardi serving again while trailing 2-5, it was the Canadian who quickly raced to a 0-40 lead, and on his second opportunity, struck a clean running forehand passing shot winner to capture the opening set 6-2 in 42 minutes.

The second set followed much of the same script, as Auger-Aliassime had the Italian qualifier scrambling and lunging out of position often as he dictated play with his physical, baseline tennis. Three holds of serve would begin proceedings before the Canadian capitalized quickly on an opening, hitting a flurry of big forehands to break for a 3-1 lead.

The Canadian would stay on the front foot from there, protecting his service games without facing a single break point. At 5-3, 40-15, he’d strike one of his 22 winners on the day to secure the straight sets victory.

Nardi, who just weeks ago, secured the best match win of his career by upsetting Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, had no answers against the big-serving Canadian in Monte Carlo. Auger-Aliassime fired six aces overall and won 36 of his 47 service points. He also generated seven break points on return, successfully converting three.

The 23-year-old, who was hampered by a knee injury during last year’s clay court swing, looked fit throughout this encounter, sliding effortlessly around the red surface and unleashing punishing, penetrating groundstrokes throughout the win.  

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It’s his first victory at the Monte Carlo Masters since 2019, and with the win he improves to 9-8 in 2024.

The Canadian will face world no. 2 and two-time Grand Slam champion Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in a blockbuster second round showdown next.