Auger-Aliassime: “I can’t be on the edge like this”
After the withdrawals of Matteo Berrettini and Marin Cilic, the bottom of the Wimbledon draw lost another of its contenders in the form of Felix Auger-Aliassime
The door closed on Felix Auger-Aliassime’s Wimbledon on Tuesday. The Canadian was riding a superb Grand Slam wave of form that included a Wimbledon quarter-final and a 2021 US Open semi-final, a quarter-final this year in Australia and a five-set round of 16 win over Rafael Nadal in Paris, but he saw his ambitions for a first Grand Slam triumph dashed by the serve of Maxime Cressy (6-7(5), 6-4), 7-6(9, 7-6(5)), the rising 25-year-old world No 45 and a recent finalist at Eastbourne.
Auger-Aliassime – ‘It’s up to me to get better’
Obviously, we all saw the trap that was set for the Canadian and so did he: but being on guard wasn’t enough.
“I have to accept the reality that I’m not going to be able to win the match,” he said after the match. “I have to accept the reality that I have lost and there is nothing I can do about it. I had bigger ambitions here obviously but if I ever want to win one of these big tournaments, I’m going to have to figure out how to beat this type of player and many others who will be in my way. It’s up to me to get better.”
As much as the loss, Auger-Aliassime remembers that he still has a milestone to reach in Grand Slam play if he wants one day to go all the way: to get out of these matches no matter what by finding more margins.
How could he have fared against Cressy, and how could he avoid such disappointments in the future? If not the returning ability of a Novak Djokovic, then at least a more regular and solid quality of play that would have allowed him to steal precious points here and there in the decisive games against the American. Cressy, impressive on the first ball as well as the second, also had nerves of steel throughout the match.
“His service quality is impressive,” said Auger-Aliassiime. “I’ve played Isner, Raonic and Opelka: he’s definitely on the same level as them, he’s much better than his ranking. There aren’t many rallies so when one comes up you’re not sure what to do. He also took his chances well on the important points, he was braver than me. The third set could have made a big difference but I can only blame myself for making that double fault on set point. It’s tough… I couldn’t find the solution but there are still some good lessons to learn from the attempt to see what I can do better.”
“I have to find a way to win more comfortably”
The 21-year-old Canadian, ranked ninth in the world, is not one to hide behind excuses so he knows that if he wants to end up dominating world tennis one day, he’s going to have to get through these matches by controlling them, no matter what. He can’t leave his fate in the hands of luck or his opponent. It’s up to him to make the difference. “This match came down to a few points, but I can’t always find myself playing on the edge like that, I have to find a way to win more comfortably even against players who show very good qualities like him. I dare to hope that he will be seeded next year, so I won’t have to play him in the first round.”
But don’t expect Auger-Aliassime to dwell on the fact that Wimbledon 2022 is already over. He is booked to play in Newport and Los Cabos, and has plenty of energy to spare, not the least of which is the desire to question everything because of a defeat. No regrets, no crisis: just back to work.
“I did my best, I can’t really have any regrets. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a situation like this, I’m going to take advantage of it to train for the Newport tournament. Then I hope to play well in Montreal and Cincinnati and arrive in good shape for the US Open. I was prepared to play two weeks here so I’m in good shape, I don’t feel tired.”
“No need to make a big deal of it”
While he doesn’t know if he’ll watch Wimbledon – apart from the semi-finals and final – now that he’s out of it, he doesn’t intend to spend two weeks moping around. “I’m not happy but tomorrow I’ll be normal. Life goes on. As the years go by, I’m also learning that even though I still want to win, I move on quickly when I lose, that there’s no need to make a big deal out of it.”
We’ll find out at the US Open if Cressy was just a bump in the road or if he’ll have put a nasty kink in the ever-promising Canadian machine.