Félix Auger-Aliassime is not one to panic. When they announce a strict lockdown, he’s not the sort to be seen leaving the local supermarket with a trolley overflowing with teetering towers of toilet paper and piles of pasta. On the outside looking in, you might think he’d be in the middle of a slight meltdown after losing his first matches in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte Carlo, interspersed with a second-round defeat in Marrakech, but the Canadian player never lost his head. Cool, calm and collected, and always careful not to get carried away by important wins, he also knows how to keep things in perspective and focus on the positives during difficult times.
It’s one of the great strengths that have helped him get back into his tennis groove. Emboldened, too, by his dazzling start to the season – ATP Cup win for Canada, Australian Open quarter-final, first title won in Rotterdam – his strength never wavered and he never allowed the seed of doubt to grow. As a result, in Madrid, he crushed Cristian Garín with a 6‑3 6‑0 victory before making short work of Jannik Sinner. While Sinner may not have been at his best, he was also overwhelmed by just how well FAA played. “Me playing really well and him missing a few more balls than he should on top of that,” the Canadian player commented following this first duel with his Italian opponent. “I think it just created a big difference.”
“It’s great for my confidence with the French Open coming up”
Eliminated in the quarter-final by Alexander Zverev, who stated that he’d played “maybe the best match of the last few months” after winning 6‑3 7‑5, the player from Montreal took back control the following week, even if not as decisively as in the previous days. In his first match on the clay in Rome, he triumphed over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who was a finalist in Monte Carlo in late April, beating him 4‑6 7‑6 6‑2 after an epic bout lasting three hours and two minutes. “It’s a great win,” he stated in a press conference. “Great for my confidence to be able to spend three hours on the clay. Very encouraging for what’s to come here and in Paris.”
“I feel good physically,” he added. “I was able to battle it out with one of the best young clay-court players we have in the game right now. He’s not playing this way by accident. He’s playing really well consistently, so it’s a great win for me.” Now on a roll, the current No. 9 in the ATP rankings went on to beat Marcos Giron before playing a thrilling match against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals – the fourth in his Masters 1000 career. Even though he was beaten 7‑5 7‑6 after battling for two hours and nine minutes, he left the court with his head held high. Very high indeed. Up against the world No. 1, he played a game close to the astonishing level seen in Australia during his Dantean quarter-final with Daniil Medvedev.
“Félix forced me to raise my level” – Novak Djokovic
“I thought it was high-level tennis,” Djokovic commented. “I know Félix well. He’s been around the top of the men’s game for quite a few years, but we never got a chance to face each other. It’s one thing to train, it’s another thing to play against someone in an official match. He’s got a lethal serve. He’s hitting his spots in the box incredibly well with the serve, and it was not easy for me at all to return. He’s also returning well, he’s moving well. He’s a very complete player. He forced me to raise my level.” Thanks to this recent performance, the 21-year-old prodigy – who, by the way, will soon have won 13,000 points for the #FAAPointsForChange programme – has shown he can hold his own with the world’s greatest clay-court players. He’s proven it not only to those watching, but to himself as well.
While he may have reached the French Open boy’s final in 2016, at just 15 years of age, and he claimed two Challenger trophies on clay before his 18th birthday, so far his wins on this surface have been rare on the main circuit. Although a finalist in Rio and Lyon in 2019, his record showed 21 wins for 23 losses on clay after Monte Carlo. Thanks to his back-to-back quarter-finals in Barcelona, Estoril, Madrid and Rome, he’s been able to tip the scales in his favour: 28–27. Above all, the quality of his tennis has him feeling confident ahead of the French Open that he’ll finally make it past the first round in the main draw, having withdrawn in 2019 and endured two first-round defeats in 2020 and 2021. Despite only two Grand Slam quarter-finals and one semi-final under his belt, Félix Auger-Aliassime could well have his future opponents in Paris shaking in their clay-court shoes.
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