Felix Auger-Aliasime is looking for great success at the French Open

Paris – Before Carlos was Felix.

It’s not so easy to remember right now, following the meteoric impact of the pandemic fog and Carlos Alcaraz’s meteoric impact on tennis. But there was a time, starting around 2015, when a young Canadian named Felix Auger-Aliasime was angered by the cognitive of tennis, and was called the potential successor to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

After a quality start to the year, but after a rocky late winter and spring for Auger-Aliasme, this concept has never been as far-fetched as it was during the first two sets of the French Open on Sunday. Auger-Aliassime came out on the court of the main stadium for a flat and wild first men match. In 88 minutes, he lost to the lesser-known Peruvian Juan Pablo Varilla, 25, who is 122nd in the rankings and complained to an opponent about himself and everyone who listened.

Then, with a few strokes of Forehand, a few explosive serves and a few masterful strokes, Auger-Aliasime came back and showed his unique blend of strength, accuracy, touch and speed. He won 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, 3-hour-14-minute fears, creating a very Felix-like afternoon.

Auger-Aliasime reached the final of the Roland Garros Youth Tournament in 2016, at the age of 15, and then won the U.S. Open Men’s title the same year. He was 6 feet 2 inches (up to 6-4 on the road), with long arms and fast legs. He could change directions like a wide receiver. He had wide shoulders that left plenty of room for him to fill his body and for even more power.

He was also polite and courteous, approaching the game with humility, which, according to the coaches, pushed him to train hard every day. When playing as a teenager, Gastao Elias, a longtime Portuguese professional, said that Auger-Aliasime “became an adult at the age of 12”.

Auger-Aliasim may one day fulfill all the promises of his adolescence. He is just 21 years old, ranks ninth in the world and is not the youngest member of the top ten Alcaraz. But if he did so, the journey would have involved numerous attacks and launches, including losing his first eight finals and other moments when he seemed to be about to take off to fall.

And now, as he tries to reach the level of the Big Three – along with Stefano Tsitsika, Alexander Zverev and many others – he has to fight the 19-year-old from behind, collect cups and win. Game against the majesty and facilitate the latter, the most difficult step. In just a few months, Alcaraz has changed his calculus for all 20s, though Auger-Aliasime’s biggest problem lately is inconsistency, not Alcaraz.

“Before, it was just Nadal, Federer and Djokovic,” said Louis Borfiga, a longtime French tennis teacher and the architect of the modern Canadian tennis development machine. “Now an incredible player is coming. He has to work very hard and he has to stay positive, believe in himself and his game.

Auger-Aliasim has no illusions about what difficulties lie ahead.

“The hardest part is always what awaits you, right?” He said last month in Portugal one afternoon before breaking into the quarter-finals in a small tournament in which he was first seeded. “Which you have not done before.”

If he can take the final step, Auger-Aliasime could be the perfect face of the sport, a multi-racial star with roots on three continents. He grew up mostly in the French-speaking province of Quebec, the son of an immigrant from Togo, where he donates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to children.

Since then he has moved to Monaco and is spending a lot of time in France and Spain, making him a new favorite in Europe.

“Ales Felix!” Fans shouted on Sunday as he tried to return to his match.

And his childhood proximity to New York, along with his other attributes, made him a fan of the US Open, which invited him to last year’s Met Gala, where he wore a white dinner jacket on the red carpet.

“We still have borders, but I consider myself a citizen of the world,” he said.

Auger-Aliasime was just as good as he was in the rest of the world in the first six weeks of the year, leading Canada to the ATP Cup championship, scoring against Daniel Medvedev (the finalist) in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Broke out by winning the Rotterdam Open, his first title.

Nadal and Federer are invested in his success. Auger-Aliasime periodically trains at the Nadal Academy in Mallorca, working with Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Tony Nadal. Federer sent the text to Auger-Aliasime in February, when he finally won his first tournament. “I’m glad for you, you did well,” Federer wrote.

But there was more decline than ascent, an early defeat on the hard courts, which are probably its best surface, and then on clay in Marrakech, Monte Carlo and Estoril, Portugal, where it was first.

“After January, we did not expect any losses, but we know that consistency is very difficult,” said Frederic Fontang, Auger-Aliasim’s coach since 2017. “He has the ability to absorb and continue learning and always does his best. This is the first talent a top player should have.”

This has always been the case for Auger-Aliasime, after his father, Sam Aliasime, a tennis coach in Quebec, introduced him to the sport when he was a boy. Aliasime was training his son until he was 13 years old. Oger-Aliasime moved to Montreal to train in Canada’s unexpectedly strong development program.

Borfiga first saw Auger-Aliasime play at the age of 6, but four years later his potential became apparent. Borfiga said he already had a “heavy ball”, a term coaches and players use to describe a person whose shot naturally generates shots that combine force and spin in a way that makes it difficult for them to return.

Auger-Aliasim said he began to understand how good it would be one day when he won an international youth tournament in Aura, France, when he was 11 years old.

“Since then, there has been faith,” he said.

His success and personal appeal have attracted the approval of numerous Blues, including his partnership with BNP Paribas, an international bank that is one of the largest sponsors of tennis. Auger-Aliassime donates $ 15 for each point earned on tour this year, while Auger-Aliassime donates $ 5 to educate children in Togo.

“He represents the youth,” Jean-Yves Fillon, CEO of BNP Paribas USA, told Auger-Aliassime.

And yet there are those terrible defeats – the challenge of a two-set advantage over Russian qualifier Aslan Karachev at the 2021 Australian Open; Early loss to Max Purcell, 190th player, at the Tokyo Olympics; And a second-round defeat at the 2021 National Bank Open in Toronto against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic. And then there was the nervous escape on Sunday during Philip Chatrier’s first appearance in court.

The Auger-Aliasime team, led by Fontang, built its schedule in 2022 around winning opportunities, including smaller tournaments. If he can win them, then maybe winning will become a habit.

Fontang said players with aggressive styles like Auger-Aliassime may need more time to realize their potential because they are more prone to mistakes, although some players are more aggressive than Alcaraz. He said that the physical gifts of Auger-Aliasime made his success almost inevitable in his mind. But Fontang wants Auger-Aliasime to be even more aggressive, to take advantage of his strength and size, to get more in the net and to score points, although this may accelerate further inconsistencies.

“Of course we can not know the future, but it just can not be static,” said Fontang. “What you see with the best players is that there is no part when they stand.”

Auger-Aliasime is not going to do that, even though he knows the way to the top is getting narrower and narrower. The math of tennis, no matter how simple, is very brutal. There are only 10 players in the top ten and only one can be number 1.

“Elite,” he said, shaking his head, “so consistent.”

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