Auger-Aliassime Delivers; Tiafoe, Paul Cap Day 1 Sweep
Felix Auger-Aliassime has felt the weight of his teammates before, though it’s a burden he says he’s happy to bear.
Last year, with the Laver Cup hanging in the balance on the decisive third day of the competition in London, the Canadian came through in both singles and doubles, his clutch 6-3,7-6(3) dismissal of Novak Djokovic pivotal to Team World’s maiden title run.
On Friday night, the 23-year-old Montrealer put the partisan Rogers Arena crowd on his back, too, the rest of his homeland, for that matter, turning back veteran Gaël Monfils of France, 6-4 6-3. The win extended Team World’s advantage to 3-0.
A breakout 2022 campaign saw Auger-Aliassime amass a personal-best 60 wins and climb to a career-high No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He would reel off a 16-match win streak that included three titles in as many weeks in Florence, Antwerp and Basel. But 2023 hasn’t exactly been the follow-up act he was hoping for, a year that saw him fall in the opening round at three of the four majors.
His Day 1 defeat of Monfils on home soil might just be the reset he needed.
“To do it with the crowd with us and supporting us, and for me especially as a Canadian, it feels good,” said Auger-Aliassime. “It feels good to get a first win under my belt here in the competition. It’s nice to get some wins. I haven’t seen those in a while.”
“It’s more than just the win; it’s the way I did it. I’m moving good, I’m feeling the ball well on the court. Even in the warmup up today, I felt like I was hitting well. But you never know, ‘Am I going to be able to showcase that on the court?’ I’m happy that I was able to showcase what I believe I can do, what I train to do, in front of everybody here and on TV. It’s nice to just be able to step up and play well again.”
Monfils, some two decades and more than 500 match victories into his career, flashed the kind of freakish speed and athleticism that has made him a fan favorite since he broke onto the tour back in 2004. But serving to stay in the opening set at 4-5, he was broken at love.
The 37-year-old tried to return the favor in the first game of the second set, only to have the 14th-ranked Auger-Aliassime erase a triple-break-point dilemma to hold serve.
“It’s so special to play here in Vancouver,” Auger-Aliassime told the crowd. “I used to come here when I was 12, not too far from here for the national championships. If you told me back then that I would be playing the Laver Cup almost 10 years later here in front of you, I almost wouldn’t believe that. So it’s extra special for me to playing in front of you tonight.”
Auger-Aliassime converted two of four break points and saved all five he faced in the one-hour, 23-minute match.
The all-American tandem of Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul would later complete Team World’s Day 1 sweep with a 6-3, 4-6, [10-6] doubles defeat of the first-time pairing of Andrey Rublev and Arthur Fils. It’s the first time in the six-year history of the competition that either side has swept the matches on Friday.