A first-round defeat at the China Open was Felix Auger-Aliassime's 17th defeat of a beleaguered season that enters its moment of reckoning in October.
Worryingly for the Canadian, he has made a meek early exit in either the first or second round in 11 tournaments this season. From a career-high ranking of World No. 6 last November, the 23-year-old has cascaded down to 15th in this week's latest ATP rankings.
Auger-Aliassime has been wildly inconsistent this year. His fitness record was questionable most of the time. And consequently elected to enter into high-profile events without any feasible match preparation. Overall, he is 14-17 for the season, which translates to a 45% win rate, his lowest such rate since his ATP debut season in 2018.
When he spoke about injuries plaguing his season at the halfway stage, he was positive that he could still salvage the year with strong performances in the second half of 2023. A slow burner of a season appeared to be heading in the right trajectory when Auger-Aliassime made the quarterfinals or better in three of his first six tournaments.
After Indian Wells, his form began to take a downhill turn. At one point, he failed to win an ATP match towards the end of May until mid-August. However, there is very little margin for error between now and the end of the season.
Of Auger-Aliassime's four titles in 2022, three came during a golden spell last October in which he won three trophies including the 500-level event in Basel. The Montreal native is defending precisely 1,000 points (a couple of 250s and one 500) in the next month.
He could drop down as low as 28th at the end of October, which would be his lowest ranking since May 2019. Auger-Aliassime is scheduled to play at next week's ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai where he will be one of the Top 32 seeds.