Felix Auger-Aliassime has a real shot to do something special, which is to help the world get over the Big 3. The stylish Canadian finally broke through to win his first ATP title by decisively thumping Stefanos Tstitsipas 6-4, 6-2 in Rotterdam. It has taken him nine tries to grab a trophy, having made all those finals. But consider who else he had to beat in this tournament: Andy Murray, Cam Norrie and Andrey Rublev. Quality opponents.
He’s starting to believe, isn’t he?
Currently ranked a career-high #9 and going up, Auger-Aliassime has been on the brink of a breakthrough for seemingly ages. But that’s the thing– his age– he’s only 21 years old. It’s what gives us hope that this player, at long last, represents someone with enough glamor and enough chops to lead tennis out of the Big 3 Era.
Here’s the deal. Many of the world’s current next-best, after the Big 3, might actually be too old to ever approach those guys’ vaunted accomplishments. Being honest, at age 26 with only one Grand Slam title, it’s highly unlikely Daniil Medvedev can ever capture 20-plus of those elite prizes, and he knows it. Never mind that Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are still out there for potentially another few years. Players in their mid-to-late 20s with similar problems include: Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini and Rublev.
But Felix? He’s got time.
Auger-Aliassime is proving can hang with the best in the world. At the 2022 Australian Open he held a match point against Medvedev in the quarterfinals. If Auger-Alaissime converts that, he’d have played Tsitsipas in the semifinal, the guy he just beat, then who knows.
Last year, FAA figured out how to solve Roger Federer on grass in a tough 3-setter at Halle. That match revealed a glimpse of very tangible problem-solving ability.
Here’s a look at the gifts Auger-Aliassime has going for him and why he could take the edge off losing the Big 3 to retirement.
The best thing about FAA’s game is that all areas are solid, and he continues to improve. His forehand has been compared to Federer’s, but his backhand is stellar as well. His aces, first serve percentage in and first serve percentage won are all in the top 20 on the ATP Tour over the last year.
An incredibly fit, lean and sculpted 6’4”, Auger-Aliassime has got the big air of Gael Monfils but with the willingness to approach the net and use his skills.
Crucially, he’s exhibited a desire for discipline, which is why he says hired Toni Nadal as a consultant. That mentality tells you he’s seeking the all-court game of the Big 3, as opposed to settling for a baseliner who sprays the ball if he’s off that day.
Having grown up in Montreal and training as a junior on indoor courts more than the average prospect, Auger-Aliassime seems to understand he will have to work hard to learn the grind mentality of clay. He claims the red dirt as his favored surface, but he’s never made it past the first round at Roland Garros. Look for that to change in 2022.
FAA’s father immigrated from Togo to Canada, and his mother is French Canadian. Just two years ago, his English was sketchy, but now he’s perfectly fluent– it’s the sign of a malleable mind. He’s certainly more chill and even-tempered than his friend and compatriot Denis Shapovalov.
Oh, and he plays piano!
The game and the pedigree make him a real renaissance man. As he does more press and the tennis world gets to know his fresh face better, fans will like what they see. It could help ease the harsh transition from the loss of Federer to retirement.
Auger-Aliassime has a sense of humor as well. Who could forget his priceless response to Elon Musk’s post about needing FAA approval for one of his SpaceX projects? The quick-witted FAA re-tweeted with the comment “approved.”
Right now is a pivotal moment for Felix. His trajectory is right where it should be. This momentum should carry him to a successful Sunshine Slam campaign, but clay season will really tease out the quality of progress he’s made.