08:31 PM GMT February 13, 2018
For the record, Felix Auger-Aliassime's tour-level career began perfectly. On the very first ball he hit, the 17-year-old cut an ace out wide against Serbia's Filip Krajinovic at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
But Krajinovic, last year's surprise finalist at the Rolex Paris Masters, generally carried over his strong finish to the 2017 season, fighting off the future star of the ATP World Tour 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 to spoil the Canadian's tour-level debut.
Auger-Aliassime battled understandable nerves in the beginning. The right-hander had never played a tour-level match before, let alone an ATP World Tour 500 tournament that has also welcomed Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer, who's chasing No. 1, this week. Surely Auger-Aliassime has walked past or brushed shoulders with the Swiss champions and been reminded once more that he's at a different level.
"The nerves got to me a little bit in the first set," said Auger-Aliassime. "I started not bad the first two games, but still I felt tight. I felt my ball wasn’t going as it usually does, playing pretty short, not serving so well. The plan was to just hang in there mentally. It was in my control to stay tough mentally, and that’s what I did. That’s why I was so close to winning the match, but he did great. I think he did great on the important points, saving break point. I think he was a little bit tougher than me on those points."
The Canadian rose to fame last season when, on the back of two ATP Challenger Tour titles, he became the fourth youngest player to make his Top 200 debut in the ATP Rankings. Richard Gasquet (16 years, 1 month); Rafael Nadal (16 years, 6 months); and Lleyton Hewitt (16 years, 10 months) are the only three players to have made their Top 200 debut at a younger age than Auger-Aliassame (17 years, 1 month, 5 days).
He showed that championship level at times on Tuesday as well, freely hitting his backhand up the line and whipping forehands at will against the Serbian. But Auger-Aliassame couldn't control his game enough, hitting 49 winners to 53 unforced errors. Still, to push the World No. 38 in your tour-level debut is nothing in which to sulk your shoulders.
"I think we’ll start from here," he said. "I’m just starting my season, second tournament, and it’s exciting. A lot of new things around. I think I’m dealing with them pretty well, but we’ll start from here. It’s really encouraging the level that I played at the end of the match."
Krajinovic will next face either second seed Grigor Dimitrov or Japan's Yuichi Sugita.