Felix Auger-Aliassime has long been touted as a future Grand Slam champion. But at age 20, it’s fair to say that some concerns had begun to crop up about his future—or, more precisely, about where he was in his future. He had reached five ATP finals, but he had lost them all, and before this week, he had won just two matches at the Grand Slams. At this year’s Australian Open and last year’s US Open, he had lost in the first round. When it came to forecasting the long-term future of the men’s game, some of the smart money seemed to have moved from Auger-Aliassime to Italian teenager Jannik Sinner.
It’s also fair to say that, with his thoroughly convincing 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win over Andy Murray at the US Open in Thursday, FAA answered a lot of questions, and allayed a lot of doubts. He played relentlessly aggressive tennis from first ball to last, and never trailed. Auger Aliassime hit 24 aces to Murray’s two, and 52 winners to Murray’s nine; won 89 percent of his first-serve points, while Murray won 56 percent of his; won 97 points to just 68 for Murray; and didn’t face a single break point. With his mix of blistering pace and viciously dipping topspin, with his brutally dismissive return winners and toweringly crisp smashes, Auger Aliassime made Murray look like a man caught in a hurricane inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Murray never could get himself out of the way. Obviously struggling to recover from his five-set win on Tuesday, he came out moving slowly and barely cracking triple digits on his first serve. Murray spent most of the first two sets trapped well behind the baseline, doing his best to fend off and redirect FAA’s blasts. In the third set, Murray stepped forward and tried to swing with the young Canadian; he had a little more success, but not enough to threaten him or ever take a lead.
FAA said he had worked hard on his sometimes-shaky serve, and especially his second serve, during the break. For tonight, he had ironed out whatever was ailing it; along with those 24 aces, he committed just two double faults. On a night like Thursday, he would have been hard for anyone on his Djokovic-less side of the draw to beat.
Auger Aliassime will play either Dan Evans or Corentin Moutet next, but we might be tempted to peek ahead at a potential fourth-round collision with Dominic Thiem. Whatever happens in the short term for FAA, the long-term prospects look good again. He’s been re-cleared for flight.