Felix Auger-Aliassime returning a shot

Photo: Mauricio Paiz

Felix Auger-Aliassime showed flashes of his older self this week during the Japan Open but even a slight return to form wasn’t enough to propel him to the semifinals. 

After winning a tightly contested first-round match against Australian Aleksandar Vukic, Auger-Aliassime settled into a strong victory against Sebastian Ofner of Austria in the second round. His momentum wound up dwindling in his match against Marcos Giron, dropping the match in straight sets. 

His quarter-finals appearance marked his first since March when he lost to Carlos Alvaraz in the Indian Wells Open. 

Though Auger-Aliassime, who was seeded eighth, only won one game of the first set, he showed signs of improvement in the second one, despite being edged out 6-4. 

The 23-year-old Canadian struggled mightily with his serve in the first set. Giron managed to break Auger-Aliassime’s serve three times including his first and last. Despite finding a steadier groove in the second set, it still wasn’t enough to best his opponent.  

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Giron dominated in his serves, converting 89 per cent of his first serve points in the first set and 67 per cent of his second ones, something that wouldn’t quite repeat itself as much in the second set. 

The beginning of the second set painted a tough scene for Auger-Aliassime who had dropped the first three games. Though things looked dour for him, he bounced back, winning the following three and getting his first and only break of serve of the match. 

The rest of the match was hard-fought but ended in disappointment for Auger-Aliassime who lost the match on Giron’s break of serve. 

Auger-Aliassime’s inability to win his service games ultimately proved to be his downfall in the match, but his second set was a stark improvement over the dismal first. 

In the second set, he converted 72 per cent of his first serve points but struggled with his second serve points with a 38 per cent conversion rate. His returns were also stronger than his first set, but the two breaks of serves didn’t do him any additional favours. 

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2023 has proved to be a challenging year for Auger-Aliassime who hadn’t reached a quarter-finals in nearly seven months, but the Japan Open showed he’s still got much left in the tank.