An 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime has been one of the young guns to watch so far in 2019, scoring 20 ATP wins and boosting his ranking from outside the top-100 to the verge of the place in the top-20. Felix was the finalist in Rio de Janeiro in February and went all the way in Miami, reaching the semi-final as a qualifier to show his skills on hard court as well.
Former Wimbledon junior quarter-finalist has made ATP debut on grass this week in Stuttgart, defeating Ernests Gulbis 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 26 minutes to reach the last 16 and present himself on the fastest surface after previously mastering the other two.
The young Canadian lost 13 points behind the initial shot, fending off the only break point he faced and breaking the Latvian once in each set to march over the finish line for the milestone triumph on the green surface. Auger-Aliassime saved a break point in the first game of the match with a booming serve and they both held with ease until game 12 when Ernests sprayed a massive forehand error to suffer a break and hand the opener to Felix 7-5 after 47 minutes.
Carried by this momentum, a teenager dropped only five points on serve in set number two and Gulbis was unable to follow that pace, giving serve away in the eighth game before Felix sealed the deal with a service winner in the next game.
Grass-court debut for Auger-Aliassime came a year later than he expected, deciding to stay on clay last June and keep his knee safe after an injury he suffered in December 2017 that halted his progress in the first months of the previous season.
"I felt good on the court, I was happily surprised as I thought it would be even tougher. It wasn't easy in the first set but I think I was able to serve well, that was the key today, also the fact I found the rhythm on the return to more returns into play and keep the rival under pressure.
It feels good to be back on grass after juniors and to get the first win. I think there is always room for improvement, this was my first win on grass and I still have a lot of things to learn on this surface, moving, coming forward, mixing shots, but it is all positive at the moment. I'm still chasing my first title and it would be cool to grab it here in Stuttgart or later this year."