Felix Auger-Aliassime pumps his fist during his first-round win at the Austrlalian Open over Dominic Thiem.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

In an extraordinary display of skill, endurance, and mental fortitude, Félix Auger-Aliassime emerged victorious over Dominic Thiem in a gruelling five-set match to kick off the 2024 Australian Open.  

The nearly five-hour marathon ended with a scoreline of 6-3, 7-5, 6–7(5), 5–7, 6-3, marking a significant milestone in Auger-Aliassime’s career, his longest match. 

Auger-Aliassime’s victory salvaged a difficult day for the Canadian men as both Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov were eliminated. 

A Match of Highs and Lows 

From the onset, the match was a spectacle of high-quality tennis. Auger-Aliassime started strongly, taking the first two sets with a combination of powerful serves and precision baseline play. He notched up an impressive 16 aces against Thiem’s 15, showcasing his serving prowess. 

However, Thiem, known for his resilience, fought back valiantly. Despite losing the first two sets, he managed to clinch the third set in a tight tiebreak and continued his comeback by winning the fourth set to set the stage for a dramatic fifth set. 

In the decider, the Canadian was able to reverse the momentum early and raced out to a 3-0 lead, which was enough cushion to claim victory. 

The match statistics reflect the closeness of the contest. Auger-Aliassime won a total of 182 points, while Thiem struck a remarkable 57 winners. The Canadian’s winning percentages on first and second serves were 77 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively, and he successfully converted five of his 13 break points.  

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On the other hand, Thiem’s performance was marred by 66 unforced errors and eight double faults, factors that ultimately tilted the match in Auger-Aliassime’s favour. 

This match marked the second encounter between Auger-Aliassime and Thiem. Their first meeting was at the 2020 US Open, where Thiem emerged victorious. However, this time at the other hard court major, the Canadian turned the tables, signalling his growth and development as a player capable of winning under high-pressure situations. 

Read the Australian Open Preview

Next up for Auger-Aliassime is French qualifier Hugo Grenier. 

Raonic Injury Paves Way for de Minaur 

In a dramatic first-round match at the 2024 Australian Open, Australia’s top-ranked player, Alex de Minaur, emerged victorious after Milos Raonic retired due to a leg injury down 6-7(6), 6-3, 2-0.  

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The contest, which was tied at one set apiece, came to an abrupt end with de Minaur leading 2-0 in the third set, leaving fans and viewers in a mix of astonishment and sympathy. 

The match began with both players showcasing their formidable skills. Raonic, with his powerful serve, faced little adversity in the first set. It carried over to the tiebreaker where he did enough to clinch the breaker 8-6. 

However, the tide turned in the second. Raonic’s serve lost its earlier effectiveness, marked by two double faults and a couple of breaks by de Minaur. The Canadian had had a medical timeout in the opening set, but the injury started to drag him down in the second. 

On the other side, the Aussie displayed his trademark resilience. Despite losing the first set in a close tiebreak, he bounced back impressively in the second, breaking Raonic and hitting 12 winners. His fighting spirit and composure were critical in shifting the momentum of the match. 

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The statistics from the match reveal a close contest. De Minaur got away with a first-serve percentage of just 51 percent, but hit 10 aces to Raonic’s 12. The Aussie was the more efficient of the two, winning 85 per cent of his first serve points and 62 per cent of his seconds, compared to 75 and 60 per cent for Raonic. 

Additionally, de Minaur’s ability to keep his unforced errors lower (5) compared to Raonic (11) played a key role in his comeback in the second set. 

Shapovalov Struggles in Return 

In the first round of the Australian Open, Denis Shapovalov faced a challenging opponent in Jakub Mensik. The match, held on Court 7, spanned two hours and 20 minutes, unfortunately ended in a straight-set defeat for the Canadian with by a score of 6-3, 7-5, 7-5. 

Shapovalov, known for his aggressive play and powerful serve, delivered 12 aces during the match but also struggled with seven double faults. His aggressive style led to 50 unforced errors. Despite these challenges, Shapovalov’s first serve was strong, successful 77 per cent of the time. He managed to win 13 service games but was unable to break Mensik’s serve throughout the match. 

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This match highlighted some areas for improvement for Shapovalov as he makes his return from a knee injury that ended his season at Wimbledon, particularly in reducing unforced errors and finding more opportunities to break his opponent’s serve. His service game remains a strong asset, but balancing his aggressive play with consistency was lacking in just his second match in the last six months. 

Rebecca Marino will be the final Canadian to contest her first-round match, taking on No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula on Tuesday.