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Auger-Aliassime: “My level isn’t where I want it to be”
Felix Auger-Aliassime has not been a fan of his own game through the tournament. Yet he still gave credit to his opponent Jiri Lehecka after the loss.
Felix Auger-Aliassime received two bad news on Sunday in Melbourne. The first one: he will not win his first Grand Slam title here this year. The second one: he has inherited a new rival in his generation. That’s called a bad day at the office. Beaten in straight sets by Jiri Lehecka, 21-year-old, “FAA” also added a confirmation to that bad day at the office: his game is not up to his expectations at the start of 2023. Never the type of person to avoid hard truths, the Canadian admitted that he was not in a good spiral for the moment.
Despite being one of the best players of the end of the past season – winning in Firenze, Antwerp, Basel, and the Davis Cup – Auger-Aliassime’s confidence hasn’t translated to success in early 2023. And his hopes for a Grand Slam title have been torn apart since his quarter-finals run in Paris with a loss in the first round of Wimbledon and second round at the US Open. Quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, beaten in five sets by Daniil Medvedev, Auger-Aliassime cannot take lightly this new early loss.
“My performance? It’s been a tough week for me, to be honest. I gave everything I had. I had some good moments. The first set was good. I was serving well today. But too many parts of my game were not at the level they need to be in order to win against players like him and the other players in the draw. It’s okay. I mean, it’s how it is. I’m proud of my effort. I gave everything. But my level isn’t where I want it to be.”
“I’m sure we will see a lot of him in the future”, FAA about Lehecka
Auger-Aliassime didn’t arrive in Melbourne with a lot of wins under his belt after he lost in the first round in Adelaide. He might have lacked some momentum and some hours of play. He didn’t want to get into details after that loss but clearly, something was missing. The most obvious aspect, that he acknowledged, was his return and it’s a bigger issue than some might think because it’s recurrent trouble for him. When he’s not having a great day, you can see it on his return, and generally, it will sink him.
“It’s been tough. Outside of just little moments here and there, like, in the third round, like the third set today. Today there was of course a glimpse of a good level, but I didn’t feel like it was as consistent as it’s been lately or when I play well. I need to see what happened really. I know a little bit, but there’s nothing to do anymore now. This tournament is done. I tried my best. I’m going to just recover and look forward to the next tournaments of the year. That’s it. I thought he played better than me overall. I played poorly in the two tiebreaks, but I think from the second set on he was a little bit better. Even in the two sets that were tiebreaks, I was winning barely any points on the return. So when it got to the tiebreak I felt like he had the edge over me, and that was enough for me today for him to win.”
“I was winning barely any points on the return”
They’re only one year apart but Auger-Aliassime and Lehecka don’t know each other that well. If this Australian Open is a clue: that might change quickly. “I know him for more than a year now. He’s been playing really good and rising in the rankings. I remember seeing him last year around the same time in Rotterdam. He made the semifinals. I’m sure we will see a lot of him in the future. We didn’t talk much. We don’t know each other well. But from what I have seen him around and acting on the court tells a lot. I think he has a good head on his shoulders, he seems calm. Young player, with not a lot of years on the tour already. To be in those moments and to be cool under pressure, play well the right points, and serve well to close the match, it’s a good sign of a good player. I’m sure for those reasons he will be a good player in the future.”
It can be tough for a player to recover quickly after a poor start to a season, especially if the issues come from things that would need a new training block to be addressed. It also creates a deficit in confidence that can be rough at this level of the game. But Auger-Aliassime was basically in this position already after the US Open last year and he revolted so hard against himself that he had a tremendous end of the year. It will be interesting to see when and how he bounces back.