ATP Cincinnati 2019: Kecmanovic d Auger-Aliassime 6-3 6-3
“You’re only as good as your second serve” is a venerable tennis maxim. If true, 19 year old Miomir Kecmanovic may be ready to challenge for the top spots in the ATP quite soon, but 19 year old Felix Auger-Aliassime is going to have to wait a while.
Auger-Aliassime is one of the most hyped young players in the men’s game, and there was a substantial Canadian contingent on the Grandstand court to cheer him on. Auger-Aliassime scrapped his way past home country heroes Pospisil and Raonic before falling to Karen Khachanov in R16 in Montreal last week: in a couple of matches he hit a lot of double faults, so when I went courtside today I wanted to see how he’d handle second serves.
Not well, as it turned out. Kecmanovic elected to receive to start the match: Auger-Aliassime hit double faults on 3 of his first 5 second serve points, and was broken in his second service game. With the ball in play, Auger-Aliassime was able to move the ball around confidently, opening the court with both forehand and backhand. The problem was getting the ball into play.
Kecmanovic has a very compact service motion, lowish ball toss, clean delivery with pace and accuracy: he mostly hits a kick second serve in the high 90s mph. Auger-Aliassime has two technical issues with his service toss: his preparation after bouncing the ball is the slowest and most elaborate I can recall, and his toss goes high and way out in front of his body.
I was sitting at the baseline, and when Felix got ready to serve I focused on where I thought the service toss was going – and I was surprised to find it even further in front than I’d expected. Hitting the ball that far out in front might make sense if you want to follow the ball into the net, but I can’t remember seeing Felix serve and volley. And a forward toss is going to tend to flatten the second serve, which brings the net and the service line into play.
Auger-Aliassime finished the match hitting 10 double faults out of 25 points where a second serve was called for. I’ve seen some WTA matches between senior players with 35% second serve faults, but I can’t recall an ATP player hitting that many (Felix’s first serve percentage was 47%, so he clearly didn’t protect the second serve).
Kecmanovic broke Auger-Aliassime in the second game of set 2, and held comfortably to the finish (he faced no break points during the match). Auger-Aliassime briefly rallied the remaining Canadian fans when Kecmanovic served for the match, pulling the score back from 40-0 to 40-30. His unflustered opponent cashed in his remaining match point with an ace down the T.
It turns out that if f you’ve got a reliable second serve, you can make the first serves count.