Back at his career-high No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Felix Auger-Aliassime needed every ounce of his Top 10 experience to overcome the spirited Thiago Monteiro on Saturday at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
The Canadian prevailed 7-6(5), 7-6(8) to down the Brazilian World No. 81 in a match that featured no breaks of serve. Auger-Aliassime let slip four match points in a dramatic second-set tie-break, but Monteiro pushed a volley wide on his fifth as the 22-year-old wrapped a hard-earned two-hour, 41-minute triumph in front of a raucous Grandstand crowd.
“After the first set, I felt a little bit better,” said Auger-Aliassime after his win. “I was giving myself chances… He came up with some good serves and great shots every time, so [I just had to] keep driving, keep trying, keep moving forward and keep staying positive. I think that was the key today, to just stay strong mentally.”
Auger-Aliassime has reached at least the quarter-finals in the past six ATP Masters 1000 events. Whether he can turn that consistency into a first title win at that level will likely depend on his ability to raise his game at key moments, and he was certainly forced to show plenty of mettle to pull through against a fired-up Monteiro.
The Brazilian saved two set points at 4-5 in the opening set, but he could do nothing to stop Auger-Aliassime in the tie-break. The Canadian earned a crucial mini-break for 4/3 with a fizzing backhand winner to move ahead.
Despite that setback, Monteiro again refused to lie down in the second set. The 28-year-old lefty saved all three break points he faced to force another tie-break, which proved to be the highlight of an intriguing encounter. It was Auger-Aliassime’s power, and particularly his huge serve, which proved crucial for his win in blustery conditions.
“I was serving pretty good,” said Auger-Aliassime. “Unfortunately I couldn’t close it out at 6/4 [in the second-set tie-break] with a double fault but honestly, throughout the match, I felt good. Considering the conditions too. It was super windy, so to serve like this, on the big points, that was key today.”
The fifth seed won 86 per cent (37/43) of points behind his first delivery and sent down 12 aces to improve his ATP Head2Head record against Monteiro to 3-0. He will next take on another South American, Francisco Cerundolo, who downed American lucky loser Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-4, 6-4.
That will be a rematch of the pair’s Indian Wells third-round clash 12 days ago, when the Canadian defeated Cerundolo in straight sets. Auger-Aliassime will be particularly wary of the 25th seed in Miami, however — Cerundolo reached his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final there in 2022.
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) March 25, 2023