Late-Night Lessons Learned For Auger-Aliassime At Australian Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime (photo: Mark Dadswell / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime proved there’s no shame in losing. Sometimes, it stings at first, like it must have felt after he squandered a two-sets-to-none lead and lost a thrilling five-set Australian Open quarterfinal battle to Daniil Medvedev that lasted for four hours and 42 minutes. What began Wednesday evening on Rod Laver Arena didn’t finish until 12:29 a.m. early Thursday.

The World No. 2 Medvedev won the quarterfinal match over No. 9 Auger-Aliassime, 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4, saving a match point along the way. There were 364 points contested between first ball and last ball, and the final tally was dead even at 182 points each.

After it was over, the 21-year-old Montréal native kept his head up and waved to the appreciative Melbourne crowd as he took his leave from the court. His quest to reach back-to-back Grand Slam semifinals following his run at last year’s US Open had ended.

Shortly after 1 a.m., Auger-Aliassime sat for his final Australian Open press conference. He was upbeat and candid in his comments.

“I’m going to leave Australia with my head held high, and I’m going to go into the rest of the season knowing that I can play well, I can play well against the best players in the world,” he said.

Indeed, during the Melbourne fortnight, the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime advanced through the lower-half of the draw, first with a five-set victory over up-and-coming Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland. Then, he fought past Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in four sets, all of them settled by tie breaks. In the third round, Auger-Aliassime defeated No. 24 seed Dan Evans of Great Britain in straight sets, and followed it with a four-set victory over No. 27 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia. These were matches the Canadian No. 1 was expected to win and he went out and won them all.

Then, although Auger-Aliassime lost to Medvedev for the fourth straight time, it was an improvement over his recent 6-4, 6-0 loss to the Russian during the ATP Cup semifinals in Sydney earlier this month.

This time, Auger-Aliassime fired 18 aces and struck 64 winners, but was undone by 75 unforced errors. His serve was broken three times by Medvedev, and while he gained 11 break points against his opponent, he was able to only convert two of them.

“I think he was just a little bit more clutch than me. A little bit more solid at times,” Auger-Aliassime said of Medvedev, who served 15 aces and produced 49 winners. “It’s no surprise where he is now. He fights, tries to find solutions. He plays well when he needs to. I think that’s the big difference. We saw the players playing well this week; they play well when it matters.

“I’m looking forward to the next time I can put myself in that situation, again. I believe I can cross the line.”

Despite the quarterfinal loss to Medvedev, there were signs of progress and a sense of confidence gained from the experience. Auger-Aliassime ended his month in Australia with a 7-3 win-loss record, which included three Top-20 wins, against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, Alexander Zverev of Germany and Roberto Bautista Agut from Spain, all during the ATP Cup competition, won by Team Canada.

“I always believed I could produce what I did tonight,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I showed it, but definitely it’s the difference between knowing that you have this inside of you and actually showing up and doing it and being close from winning, one point close.

“But, of course, it’s good for myself. It’s a world of competition, so at the end of the day, I think it’s a good message that I send to my fellow players, the people I’m competing with.”

Women’s semifinals headline blockbuster Thursday

The world’s best women’s tennis players are set to shine in prime time for the first time at the Australian Open. Both women’s semifinal matches – top seed Ashleigh Barty against No. 51 Madison Keys and No. 27 seed Danielle Collins versus No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek – are set to feature on Rod Laver Arena Thursday night.

The schedule change comes 12 years after the Australian Open women’s final was moved to Saturday night in 2009, and 100 years after women were first included in the tournament.

Late-night win for Aussies Fourlis and Kubler

Welcome to the mixed doubles final, Jaimee Fourlis and Jason Kubler! These two likable Aussies received a wild card into the mixed doubles draw and they’ve have done nothing but win. First, Fourlis and Kubler defeated the No. 7 seeds Nina Stojanovic of Serbia and Mate Pavic of Croatia, then followed with a victory over fellow Aussies Sam Stosur and Matthew Ebden. Both contests were decided by match tie breaks. Then, in the quarterfinal round, they prevailed over Sania Mirza of India and Rajeev Ram of the United States in straight sets.

Next, taking the Rod Laver Arena at 12:51 a.m. Thursday morning following the conclusion of the lengthy Daniil Medvedev/Felix Auger-Aliassime men’s quarterfinal, Fourlis and Kubler dropped the opening set, then saved a match point and battled back to win the second set to force a match tie break for a spot in the final.

Finally, the Aussies defeated the more experienced Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 10-6. The match finished at 2:26 a.m., with maybe a hundred spectators at most – mostly family and friends – remaining to the very end.

“Neither of us have played a match this late,” Fourlis, 22, said during a somewhat giddy on-court interview after she and Kubler secured their berth in the title match. “This is the first time we’ve played on Rod Laver as well. For me, it’s an honor. It was pretty cool.”

“I’m so wired right now,” admitted the 28-year-old Kubler. He definitely looked like he could fall asleep on the court but seemed too happy to think about it.

Next, Fourlis and Kubler will play Kristina Mladenovic of France and Ivan Dodig of Croatia in Friday’s mixed doubles final – hopefully, at a more conventional time.

Women’s doubles final pairings set

Unseeded Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil advanced to their first Grand Slam doubles final with their upset victory over No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both of Japan, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, in two hours and 19 minutes on Rod Laver Arena Thursday afternoon.

Since forming as a team earlier this month, Danilina and Haddad Maia have gone 9-1 and won nine straight matches. They won their first title together two weeks ago at the Sydney Tennis Classic.

No. 1 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both of the Czech Republic reached their second straight Australian Open doubles final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 3 seeds Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elise Mertens of Belgium, in an hour and 11 minutes on Margaret Court Arena. The Czechs hit five aces and 27 winners. They converted five of six break points and outpointed their opponents 60-46.

DeGroot wins fourth Australian Open women’s wheelchair singles title

In an all Dutch final, No. 1 Diede de Groot defeated Aniek van Koot, 6-1, 6-1, in 59 minutes to win her fourth Australian Open and 13th Grand Slam women’s wheelchair singles title Thursday afternoon on Court 8. She’s won six straight major titles, which includes a Golden Slam last year.

“After a year like last year where it was all about the Paralympic Games, this year we try and focus on the Grand Slams, again,” de Groot said during the trophy ceremony. “And I think we’ve done very well with the first one. Let’s continue to the next one.”

Kunieda becomes 11-time Australian Open men’s wheelchair champion 

In a battle among the top two seeds, No. 1 Shinto Kunieda of Japan beat No. 2 Alfie Hewett of Great Britain, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, in two hours and 12 minutes to win his 11th Australian Open men’s wheelchair singles title Thursday afternoon on Court 8.

Now it can be told

Who knew! Iga Swiatek is a super fan of Rafael Nadal.

Laver has been a fixture all week at Melbourne Park

Australian Hall of Fame great Rod Laver has been attending matches at Melbourne Park and sitting in the front row all week in the arena that bears his name.

By the numbers

Ashleigh Barty has lost just 17 games in advancing to the semifinals at the Australian Open for a second time.

• This year, half of the women’s semifinal singles field is made up of Americans – Danielle Collins and Madison Keys. At least one American has advanced to the semifinals at seven of the past eight Australian Open events.

Iga Swiatek has recovered from a set down to win in each of her past two matches. She entered the Australian Open with an 8-24 career win-loss record when dropping the first set.

“Quotable …”

“I’m playing the Australian Open for the last time in my home city, trying to win an eighth Australian Open. I’ll get up. Don’t worry about that.”

Dylan Alcott of Australia, legendary wheelchair player on what motivates him to excel.

“When you’re advancing and you’re doing well, you tend to glorify yourself. You know, as if you are untouchable. And it is important in that process to remain on the ground and to remind yourself that you’re a human being who is aiming for something great, and you’re headed towards that direction and you’re doing everything possible in order to achieve that greatness and – perfection doesn’t exist but close to perfection.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, during his post-match press conference after defeating Jannik Sinner to reach the men’s singles semifinals.

“I think one of the things that’s most gratifying is just the amount of work over such a long period of time, kind of coming all together, because it’s not something that happens over a year, two years. It starts from the time you’re a kid and all the hard work you’ve put in. …”

Danielle Collins of the United States, looking back over the importance of family in her development as a tennis player.

What they’re sharing on social media

Alizé Cornet / Thank you Melbourne for the memories 🙏❤️