Second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime held his ground against a stern opening test on Tuesday against Andreas Seppi, rallying from a set down to start his Citi Open campaign with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory.
The 19-year-old Canadian was tested across nearly two hours by Seppi, the player who stunned him in the opening round at Roland Garros earlier in the season. Auger-Aliassime earned his revenge with 25 winners, including nine aces, and five service breaks from 12 opportunities.
“To dig deep and to find a way to, I guess, win ugly in a way and come back from really a poor set of tennis in the first, to come back and win it – yeah, it’s good that I can also win matches that way,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Not only playing my best tennis and winning in straight sets.”
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Auger-Aliassime, who arrived in Washington, D.C. at a new career-high World No. 15 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, improved to 24-15 on the season with the victory. Coached by Frederic Fontang and Toni Nadal, Auger-Aliassime will be looking for his third tour-level final of the season after reaching the championship match in Stuttgart and Melbourne.
He needed a couple of games to gain his footing in Washington, D.C. against Seppi. By the time the 19-year-old found his best tennis, Auger-Aliassime was already down a double break and 5-1 in the opening set against the Italian veteran. Auger-Aliassime raised his level after saving two set points in the opening set, starting the second with a 3-0 lead.
The Canadian improved his first-serve points won from 65 per cent (11/17) in the first set to 85 per cent in the second set and 89 per cent in the third set. That kept the Italian on the back foot, and Auger-Aliassime earned unforced errors regularly as he continued to apply the pressure in the later stages of the match.
He will take on 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby next, after the #NextGenATP American scored the biggest win of his career to defeat No.53-ranked Frances Tiafoe 7-6(4), 7-5. Brooksby reached his first Tour-level final last month in Newport in his grass-court debut, and he continued to back up his breakthrough season as he competed in Washington, D.C. for the first time.
Brooksby retrieved everything that Tiafoe, the home favourite, fired his way and returned it with interest across an hour and 53 minutes. The 20-year-old also impressed on serve, winning 69 per cent (33/48) of points behind his first serve and 76 per cent (16/21) of second-serve points en route to victory. Brooksby improved to 5-2 at ATP Tour events on the season, and 36-7 at all levels the result.
Also in action, American Mackenzie McDonald upset the defending champion Nick Kyrgios in straight sets in their first Tour-level meeting. McDonald saved all five of the break points he faced en route to a 6-4, 6-4 victory – his first main draw win since Roland Garros earlier in the season.
McDonald stayed solid to weather Kyrgios’ big hitting, winning 81 per cent (29/36) of first-serve points to take control of the contest. The Aussie, who was sporting heavy tape on his left leg, struggled to hit through the court as he was broken once in each set.
“Ultimately, I know I can’t be too hard on myself. I haven’t played a lot of matches or any of that type of stuff,” Kyrgios said. “I played pretty average. My body feels pretty average.
“But he played well. He made enough returns. He played the big points well. He should be proud. He’s a good player. He’s a great guy, as well. I’m not taking anything away from him.”
The 26-year-old American will next face 13th seed Benoit Paire, who moved into the second round with a bye.