Spotlight: Felix Auger-Aliassime
Spotlight: Felix Auger-Aliassime
Felix Auger-Aliassime justified the hype as one of the sport’s most highly-rated young players when he cracked the top 20 after reaching three ATP finals as a teenager.
And after struggling at first to make a similar impact at Grand Slam level, the Canadian has broken through in a big way this Wimbledon fortnight to reach his first major quarterfinal.
Auger-Aliassime was touted as a future star back in his junior days; in 2016 he reached the Roland Garros boys’ final – at age 15 – and won the US Open junior title.
He transitioned quickly to the pro tour, rising to the cusp of the ATP top 100 within two years.
And he properly announced his arrival in 2019, advancing to three ATP finals plus the third round at Wimbledon to peak at world No.17 by October that year – all while still a teenager.
Assessing his progress since then has been tricky. He has gone on to reach a remarkable eight ATP finals before his 21st birthday, yet has lost them all in straight sets. And despite maintaining a place in the top 20, he is yet to better his career-high ranking almost two years on.
Since moving onto grass in 2021, however, he has stepped up another level.
First, he advanced to the Stuttgart final; then he upset idol Roger Federer in Halle; and most recently, he beat Alexander Zverev for the first time in four attempts to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon.
Early career success in 2019 saw Auger-Aliassime become, at age 18, the youngest semifinalist in the history of the Miami Masters and the youngest player since Lleyton Hewitt 20 years earlier to crack the top 25, plus the youngest to reach five tour-level finals since a teenage Rafael Nadal in 2004/05.
Auger-Aliassime was born in Montreal to a French-Canadian mother and Togolese father, the latter being a tennis coach who introduced Felix to the game at age five.
In his short time on tour, he has shown himself to be a well-rounded personality, especially when it comes to activism and charitable work.
By far the youngest player to sit on the ATP Player Council, Auger-Aliassime in 2020 used his platform to support the Black Lives Matter movement, while the ATP reports he “donates $5 for every point that he wins to EduChange, partnering with CARE to support protection and education of children in Togo”.
He is also a creative soul who enjoys playing piano – he even performed on the instrument at the Monte Carlo player party of 2019 – and revealed that if he was not a tennis player, he would pursue music or dance.
Interestingly, his girlfriend, Nina Ghaibi, is the cousin of WTA pro Ajla Tomljanovic, whose partner, Matteo Berretini, is Auger-Aliassime’s quarterfinal opponent at Wimbledon.
Auger-Aliassime is perhaps the most supremely athletic player in the men's game, with his towering 193cm frame lean enough to facilitate explosive court movement.
And he imposes this physique on opponents, serving huge and lashing at his groundstrokes with ferocious power.
Auger-Aliassime has recently and successfully returned to the “fundamentals and essentials in my game, which are my serve, my forehand, and just playing instinctively and free, I would say. Just going for my shots, being creative”.
These physical and technical attributes are coupled with an incredible professionalism and drive.
Aptly, he is now coached by Toni Nadal, who for years guided nephew Rafael – a player possessing a similar set of sporting attributes.
Addressing the Wimbledon crowd after beating Zverev: “I’m a normal guy from Montreal, Canada, and here I am … Court 1, packed, Wimbledon. Surely the best victory of my life so far. It was extra special in front of you, with the closed roof, the sound was crazy, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Thank you so much for living this moment with me.”
Experts are saying…
“He is one of the players the future of men’s tennis belongs to. He is a very complete, elegant player.”
- Roger Federer, who lost to Auger-Aliassime in the second round in Halle.
“I always have been a massive fan of FAA. I think he's got the platform and the game to really push this sport into something really exciting again. I love watching him play. He beat Roger a couple of weeks ago. So I think his game is awesome. He plays big. He backs himself.”
- Nick Kyrgios