Hello. Bye. Having entered the top ten on 15 November following his semi-final performance at Stockholm, Félix-Auger Aliassime looked set to stay there over the winter. But instead he dropped out of the top ten just one week later through a combination of circumstances. Jannik Sinner, invited to the season-ending ATP Masters as a substitute, ultimately took part in the tournament following the withdrawal of compatriot Matteo Berrettini. By winning one of his round-robin matches, the red-headed Italian pocketed 200 ATP points, taking him back into the top ten with just 42 more ranking points than Félix Auger-Aliassime.
“It’s been a year of great achievement,” FA2 told the Toronto Star in mid-December, looking back over his 2021 season. For the young Canadian, being in the top ten means “You’re in the elite of the sport. I mean, you can count them on the fingers of both hands. The next challenge is getting back there and staying there.” Among his biggest achievements, FA2 made the final rounds of Grand Slam events for the first time. Rather than his semi-final finish at the US Open in September, he sees another result as being the most important of the last 12 months, a result that kick-started the momentum that took him to new heights at Flushing Meadows.
“It was such a confidence booster for me”
“Those two weeks at Wimbledon, definitely my best memory of the year,” he told the Toronto Star. “It was such a confidence booster for me.” On the London grass, the Montreal native reached his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal by toppling Alexander Zverev, a player who had beaten him in each of the three matches they had played previously. This major step forward came after a middling clay-court season. After a “great start to the year in Australia,” the 21-year-old said in a Tout un matin interview on Radio-Canada, he hit something of a wall at the start of his collaborative effort with Toni Nadal.
“Yes, I accepted to take one step backwards to take two steps forward. That’s a good way of putting it,” he said during the radio interview. “I didn’t worry too much when we didn’t get the results we wanted at the start. It was natural that we needed an adjustment period. Toni was new to the team, so he had to get used to us and I had to get used to his new perspective. He’s an important figure in the tennis world and has achieved a lot, so maybe there was a little pressure, too. At first, I wasn’t used to having him in my box during matches. It took a few tournaments to adjust. But we got straight down to work on things that ended up paying off later.”
In addition to the “champion mentality” Félix Auger-Aliassime talked to Nicolas Mahut about on a live Instagram session for We Are Tennis, one of these key aspects was court positioning. “In training, Toni immediately focused on movement, placement and footwork,” the Canadian player said during the radio show. “Obviously, you hit with your arm, but a major part of the shot is prepared with your legs. The better placed you are, the more likely you are to hit a high-quality shot and put the ball where you want it to go. The aim is to hit the best shot possible depending on the ball coming at you. This is vital, because you can’t hit every ball the same way. He insisted on this, on being more flexible in the way I adjust my shots in line with the situation.”
“I’m number 11, but I can still improve lots of things”
To move closer still to the very top players and win his first tournament on the main circuit, which is one of his main goals in 2022, Félix Auger-Aliassime is working more on analysing and breaking down the game. “After each tournament, with my trainers Frédéric (Fontang) and Toni, we analyse the matches played,” he said in the Tout un Matin interview. “Whether you win or lose, there’s always something to learn from each match. One thing I love about this sport is that there’s really no limit to how much you can improve. You can always do better. And I still have a lot of room for improvement, I’m young. Yes, I’m number 11 (in the ATP rankings), but I can still improve a lot of things. Week after week, I am trying to become a better tennis player.”
Following winter training in Monaco, Félix Auger-Aliassime, who has renewed the #FAAPointsForChange commitment for 2022, flew to Sydney to play in the ATP Cup, starting on 1 January. After this alluring appetiser with the Canadian team, FA2, who has received his COVID-19 vaccinations, will head to Melbourne for the Australian Open, the traditional main course of the new season. “I understand that some people believe it should be a personal choice,” he told the Toronto Star when asked about vaccinations, which are mandatory for the Australian Open. “But there are consequences. It’s unrealistic telling fans they have to be vaccinated, to protect us, and then players not doing it. That would be hypocritical.” Thank you.