Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime plays a shot against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
In a first-round clash with Yoshihito Nishioka, Félix Auger-Aliassime suffered a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 straight-sets defeat to ensure his French Open journey came to what feels like a premature end. The 20-year-old cut a frustrated figure as his usual pizazz escaped him during the 2hr 34min contest on the Parisian clay. Meanwhile, Steven Diez, competing in his first Grand Slam main draw, was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 by the United States’ Mackenzie McDonald.
Heading into their match, despite being 30 places behind Auger-Aliassime (No. 22) in the ATP Tour rankings, Nishioka had won both of their two previous encounters. The first was in Granby in 2015, whilst the second came at the 2019 Indian Wells Masters event where the Japanese player grabbed a 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(5) victory.
Today’s opening-round match started well enough for Auger-Aliassime. The Montrealer held his first two service games with relative ease before breaking his opponent to jump out to an early 3-1 lead. However, he dropped his serve in the very next game and again to make it 6-5 to Nishioka – and the Japanese player saw out the first set 7-5.
Despite having his serve broken twice in the second set, the Canadian will have been desperately disappointed to miss out on eight break point opportunities of his own. In fact, Nishioka saved an impressive 11 of 13 break points throughout the match.
The third set began disappointingly for Auger-Aliassime as he fell to a quick 5-1 deficit. However, when he fought back to break Nishioka to make it 5-2, and followed it up by winning his next service game to love, any optimistic viewer could have been forgiven for even the slightest feeling of excitement at the potential for what would have been an epic comeback.
Nishioka, however, was not going to relinquish his lead, and won the very next game to ensure his victory was complete. He will now face Hugo Gaston in the next round after the Frenchman beat compatriot Maxime Janvier.
Diez’s afternoon on Court 11 took a positive turn in the early exchanges. The 29-year-old sped out to a one-set lead after he claimed a break of serve on his way to a 6-4 victory. The second set started well for the Canadian as he broke McDonald again in the first game – but the American was playing solid tennis and converted two breaks of his own to win the set 6-3.
It was a similar story in the third as Diez struggled to find the required consistency. He did show great fight to come back in the ninth game of the fourth set, though. With McDonald serving for the match at 5-3, Diez broke the American to force at least another game. However, McDonald showed great determination to break Diez again, with the Canadian hitting his shot long on match point, and end the match.