Auger-Aliassime stuns Pouille to advance to 2nd round at Rogers Cup

Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated 18th-ranked Lucas Pouille to start his Rogers Cup with a win.

TORONTO — Felix Auger-Aliassime has heard his name pronounced incorrectly so many times it doesn’t even faze him anymore.

After beating a Top-20 opponent for the first time in his career Tuesday, the Montreal teenager is doing what he can to make his name more memorable.

Auger-Aliassime (pronounced oh-ZHAY ah-lee-ah-SEEM) upset Lucas Pouille of France 6-4, 6-3 at the Rogers Cup, cruising into the second round of the tournament in his main draw singles debut.

Still beaming after the biggest win of his career, Auger-Aliassime explained the origin of his name to reporters, detailing how his father, an African immigrant, insisted that his mother’s French name be included to give Felix more recognition in Quebec.

"I hear all kinds of (pronunciations), like obviously in English ‘ogre’ is always present," Auger-Aliassime said with a laugh.

"But no, it doesn’t really matter if people mispronounce."

Auger-Aliassime, who reached a career-high No. 133 world ranking heading into the week, needed just one hour 18 minutes to down the No. 18 Pouille on centre court at Aviva Centre.

The Canadian wild card saved 5-of-6 break points and converted on 3-of-6. He also fired five aces — including four in the second set alone — and won 73 per cent of his first service points.

It was his second career win at a Masters 1000 event and first since an opening-round victory at Indian Wells against fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil in April that made him the first player born in the 21st century to win an ATP Tour-level match.

Auger-Aliassime, 17 until Wednesday, said he hasn’t had much time to think about how he’ll be celebrating his 18th birthday — aside from playing Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev in the second round, again on centre court.

"It’s funny because I was thinking about it the whole year. I was like, ‘OK like, this year I’m turning 18. … it’s all exciting,"’ Auger-Aliassime said. "I had plans for my birthday. And now that the tournament is here, it’s like I have another priority."

Auger-Aliassime started Tuesday’s match strong, breaking Pouille in the second game of the first set, then fighting off triple break point for a 3-0 lead.

Pouille broke Auger-Aliassime while he was serving for the set at 5-3, but the youngster bounced back with another break for set point, letting out an approving roar as fans waved Canada flags in the seats.

He converted a break in the second set and held serve the rest of the way.

"I was able to hang in there and get those key games," said Auger-Aliassime, who began the year ranked 161st.

Auger-Aliassime lost in the qualifying round at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2016 and had to withdraw his wild card entry to the 2017 tournament in Montreal with a left wrist injury.

The breakout star from last year’s Rogers Cup, 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., also advanced to the second round, defeating No. 46 Jeremy Chardy of France 6-1, 6-4 in the night match on centre court after watching Auger-Aliassime’s victory from the locker room.

"In a way he really pumped me up with his win. I was like, ‘OK let’s make it back to back and have two Canadians advance to the second round," Shapovalov said. "I’m really happy. It’s a good day for Canadian tennis."

Shapovalov won 80 per cent of his first service points, converted on 3-of-5 break points and was never broken throughout the match, which lasted just over an hour.

The top-ranked Canadian in the men’s singles draw at No. 26, Shapovalov let out an emphatic yell when he sealed the victory in front of a cheering home crowd that included Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

He will play 14th-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini in the second round Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, four-time champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 7-6 (7) win over lucky loser Mirza Basic, and former world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka came back to beat 16th-seed Nick Kyrgios 1-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Djokovic, the ninth seed in Toronto, last won the Rogers Cup in 2016 and is coming off a win at Wimbledon this year. He will next face wild-card Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont.

Djokovic began his tournament a night earlier, teaming up with Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson to defeat Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov in a first-round doubles match.

"Felix, you know, he’s not even 18 and playing at this stage and showing some dedication on the court and willpower, which is quite nice to see and refreshing," Djokovic said. "We want to see young players playing well and challenging the best players in the world."

Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion, came into the tournament ranked 195th in the world as he looks to get back into form following knee surgery.

In the day’s final match, Marin Cilic beat fellow Croatian Borna Coric 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 after a brief rain delay halted play for the second day in a row.

In another first-round upset, Robin Haase of the Netherlands downed Japan’s Kei Nishikori 7-5, 6-1. Americans Sam Querrey, Frances Tiafoe and Ryan Harrison joined Russia’s Karen Khachanov and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas as other first-round winners. Tiafoe will face Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., in the second round Wednesday.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.