MELBOURNE — Felix Auger-Aliassime avoided a humiliating second-round exit from the Australian Open on Wednesday, erasing errors to secure a thrilling 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over Slovak Alex Molcan.
Backed as a potential champion at Melbourne Park by no less than John McEnroe this week, the sixth-seeded Canadian looked to be crumbling from the first Grand Slam of the year after two error-prone opening sets at Margaret Court Arena.
However, the 22-year-old appeared to flare up after a complaint to the referee about the condition of the balls early in the third set, and was suddenly a different player, serving like a dream and imposing his game at world no. 53.
“It’s quite simple, you have to put the ball in the court without missing it”, laughs Auger-Aliassime, explaining the transformation.
“At the end of the day, it’s not rocket science. So I was just trying to put one more ball in the field and keep it simple, make it work.”
It was quite a contrast to the first two sets when Auger-Aliassime overcooked his shots on both sides and sprayed 25 unforced errors, Molcan happily taking advantage.
“The numbers show it, but he was much more consistent than me in the first two sets,” conceded Auger-Aliassime.
“I was just trying to find a way to stay on the court a little bit longer, make the game difficult and make it last longer.
“When I was able to get that third set, I had a lot more confidence in myself, my thoughts were a lot more positive and then I was like, ‘I’ve done it before, maybe I can do it again. , come back and win’.
“I’m really glad I got to do it. It was a tough day for me.”
The Canadian, who lost the first set of his opener to compatriot Vasek Pospisil on Monday, wrapped up the game in just over three hours with a raspy forehand – the fifth time in his career he has come back to win a five set.
Quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, Auger-Aliassime will then face 28th seeded Argentina Francisco Cerundolo or Frenchman Corentin Moutet.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)