Felix Auger-Aliassime, number 9 in the world, convinced like no other indoors this season. At all indoor tournaments where he survived the starting round, he reached the final. After tournament victories in Florence and Antwerp, he has been undefeated for eleven individual events. And when he defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (6-1, 6-0) in the round of 16, he played “better than I’ve ever played in my life”.
And that means something: Felix Auger-Aliassime already defeated Alexander Zverev in Wimbledon (2021) and Novak Djokovic a month ago at the Laver Cup. Although he has never been better than 8th in the world rankings, the ambitious Canadian is one of the hottest contenders to succeed Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.
Discovered at 7
Auger-Aliassime was discovered in Montreal at the age of seven by Sylvain Bruneau, a Canadian national coach. Felix stood out from a hundred children. While most of them were fooling around, Felix got serious. “He could focus in a way that seven year olds really couldn’t. He was… different!”
From the moment someone told Felix Auger-Aliassime he had what it takes to be a pro, the dark-skinned boy was on a mission. Auger-Aliassime: “It probably sounds a bit wild, but even as a seven-year-old I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.” The former coaches say Felix was obsessed with becoming a tennis pro.
The son of Sam Aliassime, born and raised in Togo, and Marie Auger, a Canadian teacher, is taking the course. He’s been a pro for five years and the results are getting better and better. Felix Auger-Aliassime made his Olympic debut last year, leading Canada to win the ATP Cup and becoming the youngest player since 2009 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal at the 2021 US Open.
Federer’s praise from 2015
Insiders took note of Felix Auger-Aliassime a long time ago. “He’s one of those players who owns the future of men’s tennis,” said Roger Federer in 2015, “a very complete, elegant player.” Back then, Auger-Aliassime won four junior tournaments and at 15 in Granby, Canada, became the youngest player ever to survive a round in an ATP Challenger.
Auger-Aliassime needed new impetus for the next step, after he had been struggling for 20th place for around three years. The young Canadian lost his first eight finals on the tour. He wanted a new head coach, someone who knew how to win. At the top of his wish list was “Uncle Toni”, Rafael Nadal’s uncle. Felix Auger-Aliassime had admired Nadal as a child. He asked Toni Nadal if there was any possibility of doing something together. And to his pleasant surprise, Uncle Toni agreed.
Felix Auger-Aliassime started under the wing of “Uncle Toni” Nadal (although, as in Basel, rarely on site). In Rotterdam he won his first tournament at the beginning of the year. Two more titles were recently added in Florence and Antwerp.
In Basel, Auger-Aliassime is aiming for the third tournament win in three weeks. And yet he knows that he still has a long way to go before he can achieve his dreams: “How good I can become depends primarily on myself – how focused I am at work, how serious I am about the sport and how persistent I am in the next few years. If I do all those things very well then I can go as far as I want to go. But ‘yeah’ I’ll lose from time to time, but hopefully always after a good fight.”