LONDON – There was little respect on the court for age, reputation and rankings at Wimbledon this year. Successful players outsmart their heroes, and are wonderfully amazed at their accomplishments.
Then some look with a steely eye as they speak firmly of their chances of success. Others, like Felix Auger-Aliassime, are only smiling as they think about what they have achieved this year, and what is to come.
“I’m an ordinary guy from Montreal, Canada, and here I am,” the 20-year-old said in his court interview after the beating. Alexander Zverev On Monday to reach the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam for the first time.
Auger-Aliassim never thought that he would be in the same patch as Roger Federer. He remembers being 5 years old watching the man born on the same day he was born – 19 years apart – turn the tennis world upside down in the mid-2000s. Auger Aliassime went on to make an impact in the ATP rankings, then beat his champ, Federer, at the Halle Open last month. Early adopters keep coming to Auger-Aliassime, and it’s breaking new ground here at Wimbledon.
For the first time in Grand Slam history, Canada had two players in the last eight of the men’s singles: Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. They are different players, but good friends. They hardly saw each other at Wimbledon because they are on different sides of the draw, but they may meet in the final. Their praise for each other is delightfully low – but Shapovalov said his friend Auger-Aliassim “has definitely improved his game a lot and is at a really good level at the moment.”
Auger-Aliassime has been a rookie tennis player for a while. Reached the Wimbledon final and fellow Canadian Milos Runic I designated him in 2014 as someone to watch, Twitter: “It is inspiring to see what Felix Auger-Aliassime is doing when he is only 14 years old. It will be interesting to watch.”
Auger-Aliassime would take the boys’ singles title at the 2016 US Open, then reach the 2016 equivalent final at Roland Garros.
“I think a lot of people have recognized his talent a long time ago,” said ESPN analyst James Blake. “I even remember seeing him play in the US Junior Open final and I think this guy has talent, he’s going to be the future, the future star.”
Federer trained with him in 2017 in Dubai and said, “It was a pleasure working with him.” Andy Roddick In 2019, she compared the Auger-Aliassime movement to that of the young Leighton Hewitt or Rafael Nadal.
In May 2019, Auger-Aliassime became the youngest of the 25 players in the world since Hewitt in 1999. He reached the ATP Finals eight times, but lost them all. But Blake said that shouldn’t be overlooked just because of the lack of hardware.
“This is very impressive,” Blake said. “He’s done a lot of good things and I’m sure he would have liked to have taken one of those titles to have one on the Tour now, but I think there will be a lot more to come.”
Part of the reason for the Auger-Aliassime hack was the benefits of bringing Toni Nadal to his staff. Toni worked with his nephew, Rafa, earlier in his career, and in December 2020, Auger Alessem went to Rafa Nadal’s Academy in Mallorca and worked with Toni. By April, the partnership was sealed with a rubber stamp.
“Even with Tony, I’m still the same player with the same mentality, but I’m trying to get a little better every day,” said in April.
Besides consistency, Blake has seen other Auger-Aliassime improvements.
“I feel well served,” Blake said. “He’s always had a really big serve, but I think over the last couple of years he’s probably done some messing around with his throw because that’s the thing that’s going to blow up and lead to very few double faults. But it looks like he’s been a lot more locked up now. He’s got big ground strikes And it moves really well.”
Blake said he would like to see him work on his defense a little more, but added: “It’s always going to be necessary, but it’s not a big deal because you play more first-stroke in tennis, and he’s just been really good at that.”
It all contributed to this race at Wimbledon. He opened the tournament by winning in straight sets Thiago Monteiro (6-3, 6-3, 6-3), then win four sets Michael Ymir (6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1). The eagerly anticipated third round match with Nick Kyrgios During the second set, Kyrgios withdrew due to injury. Kyrgios said he admired Auger Eliasim.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Auger-Aliassime,” Kyrgios said. “I think he has the platform and the game to really push the sport, you know, into something really exciting again.” “I have nothing but respect for him. He’s a hell of a player. I’m sure he’ll be one of the Grand Slam champions one day and he’s going to do some special things.”
Next in the Round of 16 was his 6-4, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Alexander Zverev.
“Doing it here and jumping over that huge hurdle to get into the quarter-finals against a great player like Zverev is a big deal,” Blake said. “I’ve seen his emotions when he won that and how much that means. It’s a big moment mentally and sometimes it can be a watershed moment: ‘Okay the pressure is gone now, I can play more freely.'” “
“Because he looks like he can be a little nervous there, so to see he can play with more freedom and with a little bit of relaxation, I think it’s dangerous for the rest of the guys. It’s dangerous.”
Auger-Aliassime was smiling after the match.
“It’s a huge milestone for me in my young career,” he said.
His success here is also due to a shift in mentality. He has spoken about pressures in the past, saying in 2020 he found the previous year’s Wimbledon championships a formidable task.
He said in 2020: “I felt a little dizzy before Wimbledon. I made it to the final in Stuttgart, before the final in Queens. Arriving at Wimbledon, I heard people saying I was among the favorites to win the title. I told myself to calm down. He stressed me out. A little bit. I have to adapt to this new life, to these new pressures. For now, I’ve been lucky because these adjustment periods are fairly short, but I’m still here.”
Part of the battle also lies in developing interests outside the game. Auger-Aliasime plays the piano, became a huge fan of Scrabble during the lockdown and also does charity work. He donates $5 for every point he earns to Educhange, which supports the protection and education of children in Togo, where his father Sam grew up.
Blake said he believes the strong Canadian squad here is a contributing factor to playing Auger-Aliassime without fear.
“I think for someone like him it might be beneficial to do well in Canadian tennis,” Blake said. “You have Shapovalov doing well. Raonic was injured a while ago but he led the way for these guys. Even [Vasek] Pospisil does a good job, so I think having a company and not everyone focusing on it all the time is a good thing.”
While Auger-Alessem has a strong relationship with the Canadian Battalion, he is now facing one of his best friends on the tour in Italy. Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals Wednesday. the two Close and off the field, with Berrettini dating the Wimbledon quarter-finals Ajla Tomljanovic, and her cousin, Nina Gibe, is dating Auger Eliassim. The four have a strong bond, Tomljanovic explained after her fourth-round win on Monday.
“After we won, the three of us walked past each other in the hallway. I was so happy for that. [Auger-Aliassime] “Because, like, the whole thing, like the way he does it is incredible,” she said. He wants it so much. He loves everything about her. To see it works so well, it makes me very happy. I gave him a grip pump, like, cool, Felix. I think they hugged, too. I’m glad one of them will pass on Wednesday.”
Auger-Aliassime said he is only looking forward to playing against his friend.
“I think it’s good to play with each other,” he said. “We have both had a great tournament so far. We will try to leave everything there, and it will be fine. It is good to see some new faces in the quarter-finals. I am happy to be a part of it.”