After cruising to a two set lead in just under an hour, Felix Auger-Aliassime dropped the next three to lose in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open. A comeback by Russian Aslan Karatsev, who qualified to take part in the main draw, won 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 3-6, 4-6 over the 20th seeded Montrealer at Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne. A win by the 20 year-old Auger-Aliassime would have sent him into the Round of 16, a quarterfinal appearance in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career. “Could I have played better? Clearly I could have done better especially after leading 2-sets to love,” Felix Auger-Aliassime said in the post game conference. “To be honest, a lot of credit to him (Karatsev), he raised his level after the second set and mentally he started serving really well, doing everything really good. On my part I started serving not as good, not hitting my targets and things got a bit tougher from that point on.”
Karatsev found his game in the third set to get back into the game; he built on his momentum to pull even with Auger-Aliassime, setting the stage for the fifth set. This marked the first time that both players had to handle a fifth set scenario and it was Karatsev rising to the occasion of that challenge. Auger-Aliassime won the opening game but was unable to battle back against the surging play of his Russian opponent. “I won three matches here, lost a tight one today,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It’s a shame, really a shame that I couldn’t get through today. It’s difficult to swallow it’s tennis, that’s how life is. Honestly it can only help me in the future. It’s the first time I play five sets, the first time this happens to me, maybe not the last one. “We’ll see but I’ll just try to learn from that and be better next time.”
To advance to the fourth round, Auger-Aliassime beat his friend Denis Shapovalov in an all-Canadian match-up in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday as he bested the no.11 seeded Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. That will go into the Tennis Canada history books as it was the first Grand Slam meeting of two Canadian men in the third round or later.
Auger-Aliassime’s success at the Australian Open came following a quick turnaround to start play there. Prior to his first match in the Open on February 8, Auger-Aliassime was in action at the Murray River Open where he lost in the final to Brit Daniel Evans on February 6. “Last week I just didn’t have a choice really if I wanted to go ahead to get through my first round so I had to bounce back really quick,” he said. “Now I’ve got a bit of time until the next tournament. It’s been a long stretch here in Australia, a tough stretch. I need to recover physically, mentally and get back to training.”