After a dominant opening set, Marin Cilic was made to work hard for a 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Rolex Paris Masters on Monday.
The 2016 semi-finalist struck 37 winners and saved seven of nine break points to advance in two hours and 27 minutes. Cilic improved to 2-0 against the #NextGenATP Canadian, following his straight-sets win at last year’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
Cilic took advantage of a slow start from his opponent to cruise through the first set. The Croat returned with depth to rush his opponent and made no forehand unforced errors to claim the first set in 31 minutes.
The second set was decided by a marathon eighth game. After trading breaks, Auger-Aliassime used his forehand to break through Cilic’s defence in a 21-minute return game.
“These kind of games can turn the match around, so I had to definitely dig deep. He won that [marathon] game and won the set, so I just had to recalibrate and come back,” said Cilic.
But Cilic made the crucial breakthrough in the deciding set, as Auger-Aliassime attempted to shorten points on serve by rushing the net. The former World No. 3 served with power and closed the match with a forehand winner to record his 15th victory at the ATP Masters 1000 event (15-11).
“I started the match by winning the first six games and I was just zoning in on every single ball,” said Cilic. “It was a great start. Obviously, I was expecting that Felix was going to raise his game and he started to play better. It was a really tight second set, even though it went 6-3 to him… It wasn’t easy. I just felt I served great in the third set, which definitely helped.”
Auger-Aliassime was attempting to continue his strong run of indoor results in 2020. The 20-year-old leads the ATP Tour with 14 indoor wins this season (14-7) and has reached three championship matches at indoor events this year.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, will meet French wild card Corentin Moutet in the second round. The 21-year-old earned his 10th victory of 2020 with a 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 win against Salvatore Caruso. Cilic claimed a straight-sets win in his only previous ATP Head2Head clash against Moutet at this year’s Australian Open.
“Corentin [is] a great player,” said Cilic. “He’s one of the best fighters on the Tour and plays difficult tennis… It’s important [for me] to just keep this kind of a level, which I would definitely be happy with.”[WATCH LIVE 1]
In a meeting of former #NextGenATP talents, Ugo Humbert battled past Casper Ruud to earn his first main-draw win at the Masters 1000 event. The Antwerp champion extended his winning streak to six matches with a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) victory against the Norwegian.
“It is my first win here in Bercy and I am really happy because it was really tough,” said Humbert. “[Casper] is an excellent player and it was physically hard today. I am very happy to win.”
Humbert, who won 84 per cent of his first-serve points (42/50), improved to 2-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Ruud. Each of the pair’s three clashes this season have required a final set. The 22-year-old Humbert will face Stefanos Tsitsipas for the first time in the second round.