Felix Auger-Aliassime didn’t have things all his own way Monday, but he stepped up when needed to reach the second round at the Australian Open for the third time.
Chasing his first win of the season, the Canadian recovered from a slow start to overcome countryman Vasek Pospisil 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 6-3 in three hours and 59 minutes.
The sixth seed Auger-Aliassime, who struggled at times to find his best level against the World No. 99, now leads Pospisil 4-1 in their ATP Head2Head series. The 22-year-old will next meet Alex Molcan after the Slovakian clawed past 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka 6-7(3), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.
“He is a good friend and great teammate,” Auger-Aliassime said. “We recently had some amazing memories together. Winning the Davis Cup two months ago. It is always tough to play a good friend. He came out firing, playing really well. On my part it was a bit of a struggle but it is ok. It is a first round, it happens. I am just happy I was able to get back into this match.”
In front of a lively crowd on John Cain Arena, Pospisil flew out of the blocks. The 32-year-old hit through Auger-Aliassime with his weight of shot and moved forward effectively, winning 82 per cent (9/11) of net points in the first set to soar ahead.
Despite the early setback, Auger-Aliassime quickly recovered. The World No. 7 returned with greater depth as the match went on, pinning Pospisil deep behind the baseline with his penetrating forehand. The 22-year-old also began to find the feet of the onrushing Pospisil with more consistency, forcing his countryman into errors in the second and third set tie-breaks to move ahead.
Auger-Aliassime then wore Pospisil down in the fourth set, pulling him from corner to corner to advance.
“It was a rough start,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But the match is long and I was trying to stay positive. Being in situations like this before I am able to stay more calm and composed and tried to have positive thoughts. It was up and down. It was a tricky match and I am happy to get through.”
The 2022 Australian Open quarter-finalist Auger-Aliassime is chasing his maiden Grand Slam title this fortnight in Melbourne. He arrives at the first major of the season off the back of a career-best season in 2022, when he won four tour-level titles.