Round two goes to… Félix Auger-Aliassime.
The 18-year-old Montreal native got the better of his good friend and compatriot Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open, winning 6-2, 7-6(7) to level his ATP Tour head-to-head with Shapovalov at one win apiece.
The match had its fair share of ebbs and flows, but it was Auger-Aliassime’s greater pedigree on clay making the difference in the first set, as he raced off to a double-break lead courtesy of pin-point top-spun backhands and redirections of Shapovalov’s electric groundstrokes into the corners.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) May 5, 2019
Auger-Aliassime threatened to run away with the match at several points in the second set, generating multiple break-point opportunities on the inconsistent Shapovalov serve before breaking in the fifth game of the set. But Shapovalov, a semi-finalist last year in Madrid, would find the extra gear of shotmaking that has seen him rise to within the Top 20 this season.
Breaking No. 30-ranked Auger-Aliassime in the following game, Shapovalov would finally find the rhythm he had been hitherto fruitlessly searching for throughout the match. He managed to bring proceedings to a tiebreak, which featured an array of brilliant match-point saves, gruelling rallies and wild errors from both Canadian young guns.
Have learned not to get too far ahead of myself. Shapovalov v Auger-Aliassime likely will be a heck of a rivalry. But life and tennis are full of surprises. For now, best to savor unlikely reality that Canada has two potential men's Slam champs born less than two years apart
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 5, 2019
In the end, Auger-Aliassime prevailed after one hour and 49 minutes on a final Shapovalov error. The Quebecois improves his win-loss record on the season to 17-9, 10 wins of which have come on clay.
Playing a good friend is never easy, but neither is playing Rafael Nadal on clay in Spain. And that’s exactly what’s in store for Félix in the next round.
(Feature photo: Mutua Madrid Open)