WIMBLEDON, England — It was only a matter of time until Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime won his first career main draw singles match at a Grand Slam tennis tournament.
That time came Monday as the 18-year-old from Montreal posted his first victory at his first Wimbledon as a professional — on Canada Day, no less — against fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
The 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the 29-year-old Pospisil, who was playing his first match since back surgery in January, was the first time Auger-Aliassime had played more than three sets to win a match in his life.
On a day when highly-regarded young stars Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas both were upset in the first round, getting out unscathed was a victory in itself for the 19th-seeded Auger-Aliassime.
“First matches in any tournaments are tough. I think they’re even tougher in Grand Slams. On grass things can go fast if you don’t serve well, return well,” he said. “I think the thing for me was just to accept it. ‘Okay, here’s the thing, I’m maybe nervous, not serving as well as I would like’ and to accept it and find ways to deal with that.”
Vancouver’s Pospisil had the trainer come out on a couple of occasions to try to free his locked-up right hip — an alignment issue he dealt with a few weeks ago that returned with the intensity of the match conditions.
The treatment, in a nutshell, made it appear as though the trainer was trying to yank Pospisil’s right leg right out of its socket, even if it was less painful than it might have seemed.
“Considering I haven’t played for eight months, I was hitting the ball well. I started pretty well. I think as the match was going on, my level was just dropping a little bit. His was going up,” Pospisil said. “You know, you’ve got to be in top shape and playing extremely well to be beat Felix in any match. Best of five, especially.”
Auger-Aliassime reached the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon junior event in 2016 when he was 15.
That was his last visit to the All-England Club.
But despite his inexperience, many of the local bookmakers have him among the top six favourites to win the tournament.
“Sometimes I can understand the excitement. At the same time, that’s never something I thought of,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think the first thing was just to get my first win. And then — obviously I’m not saying I’m here to lose — but if I can go all the way, I’ll go all the way. But it’s a bit exaggerated to put me as maybe a fifth or sixth favourite to win the title. I think that’s a bit crazy, yeah.”
Auger-Aliassime will play French qualifier Corentin Moutet in the second round.
Pospisil, who as a member of the ATP Player Council has been in the thick of board meetings and tennis politics over the last few days, still is alive in doubles, which also is best-of-five sets at Wimbledon.
He and Auger-Aliassime know each other well. Frederic Fontang, one of Auger-Aliassime’s two coaches, worked with Pospisil for four years.
The two had practised a few days before the draw was made Friday, and joked that they might face each other in the first round.
“I love Felix. I think he has such a good approach. For sure he’s the most mature player for his age that I have seen. Has so much potential,” Pospisil said.
“Physically he’s extremely strong, and he’s very process driven. He has a really good team around him and a good approach, and I think the sky’s the limit,” Pospisil added. “Over the next couple years, we’ll see how he progresses but honestly, I think he could do amazing things in this sport.”
Following the two Canadians onto Court 12 was another countryman — No. 15 seed Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont.
Raonic, who reached the Wimbledon singles final in 2016, dispatched Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 7-6, (1), 6-4, 6-2 to advance to a second-round meeting with Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
“It’s always been tough for me here, to win the first round of Wimbledon — no matter how well I’ve been playing. So today, I think I did a better job of creating some distance, and getting ahead, and giving myself a little more freedom to swing out,” Raonic said.
The rest of the Canadians are in action Tuesday as the singles first round continues.
Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., the 2014 women’s singles runner-up, will face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia. Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., the No. 29 seed in the men’s draw, will play Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.
Lucky loser Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ont will meet 34-year-old wild card Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who has announced that Wimbledon will be his swan song.
Schnur, 23, will be making his Grand Slam debut.