Felix Auger-Aliassime serves at the 2021 National Bank Open

Photo: Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canada

It’s a crucial week for Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, who could qualify for the year-end ATP Finals with a deep run at the Rolex Paris Masters. And he got off to a positive start with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Gianluca Mager of Italy in the tournament’s first round on Tuesday.

Mager (No. 66), a qualifier who beat Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen and Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka to reach the main draw, is ranked 55 places behind Auger-Aliassime – who is at a career-high No. 11 – on the ATP Tour. This meeting in the French capital represented the first of their careers.

Coming off a quarter-final run in Indian Wells, Auger-Aliassime entered the match as the tournament’s No. 9 seed. The first set in Paris was remarkably even. The Canadian won 91% of his first serve points to Mager’s 90% and between them the pair gave up just one break point opportunity. Unfortunately for Auger-Aliassime it fell the way of his opponent and the Italian didn’t pass up his chance, taking the first set 6-4.

The second set was equally tight. It took until 5-4 on Mager’s serve for Auger-Aliassime to make a move. He finally broke the Italian after going 0:40 and converting on his first break point opportunity to take the set 6-4.

Onto the third and final set, where Auger-Aliassime really began asserting his dominance and making the gap between the two players’ levels show. The pair exchanged holds of serve before the Canadian went on winning run of five consecutive games – including two breaks – to seal the set 6-1 and the match.

Up next, Auger-Aliassime will take on Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who beat Great Britain’s Andy Murray in the first round.