Felix Auger-Aliassime overcame a nervous start at the Western & Southern Open on Saturday as the ATP Tour returned after a five-month suspension due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The 20-year-old Canadian extended his winning streak to 3-0 against big-hitting Nikoloz Basilashvili with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over 76 minutes, but didn’t have things all his own way in a match that featured no line judges or fans at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
“It feels unbelievable, great to be back, even with no crowd,” Auger-Aliassime told TennisTV during an on-court interview. “I had a terribly start with my serve, but I managed to get back and started to play better and better. I think he struggled on serve more than the last time I played him.”
Auger-Aliassime, who has reached two ATP Tour finals in 2020 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam (l. to Monfils) and at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (l. to Tsitsipas), will next challenge Lorenzo Sonego or wild card Tennys Sandgren in the second round.
Auger-Aliassime started his first match since 27 February with an ace, but then proceeded to hit three double faults to fall behind. While the No. 15 seed #NextGenATP star recovered to win three straight games from an 0-2 deficit, including an 11-minute fifth game, Basilashvili came within one point of taking a 5-3 advantage in the first set.
Two double faults from the Georgian at 4-5, handed Auger-Aliassime the 48-minute opener and the same thing happened again at 1-2 in the second set to cost Basilashvili dearly. Felix grew confidence on serve and finished the match having won five straight games.
Elsewhere, Jan-Lennard Struff recorded his first win in his third meeting against Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-4 in 81 minutes. Struff, who awaits the winner of No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov or 2016 champion Marin Cilic, broke serve twice in the first set that ended with De Minaur hitting a backhand into the net. The German took advantage of a double fault from de Minaur at 3-3 in the second set to break with a powerful forehand.