Felix Auger-Aliassime: Stepping into the Spotlight

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Last March, after he defeated 2015 Wimbledon quarterfinalist and fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells, a reporter jokingly asked Felix Auger-Aliassime if he thought of himself as being famous.

“No, not yet, I don’t think so. It will come eventually, maybe,” replied the teenager with a smile.

The question was in reference to the then 17-year-old’s transition from junior to pro; and the increased attention at the professional level.

“Last year, two years ago, never would have thought I’d be here talking to you guys, second round of the Masters. I was still playing juniors,” he continued at his Indian Wells post match presser.

“This transition went pretty fast for me, so it’s quite unbelievable to be here so early. But as a kid, those are the moments you dream of and those are the stages you want to play on.”

Less than a year later, the now 18-year-old finds himself ranked inside the ATP’s top 60 thanks to a truly impressive run to the finals at the Rio Open in Brazil.

In the opening round, he made easy work of the tournament’s second seed, Fabio Fogini, defeating the Italian in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.

Auger-Aliassime would then beat Christian Garin, Jaume Munar, and Pablo Cuevas to reach the finals. By doing so, he became the youngest player in history to reach the final of an ATP 500 level tournament.

“It’s so surreal. I always believe in myself but honestly, today, I had a slight chance to win I felt because Pablo is an unbelievable player,” said Auger-Aliassime after beating the 2016 champion in three sets.

“He won the tournament here, he’s really experienced. But from the start, I felt good. After the first set I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to have a chance in this.’ I’m really happy,” added the Canadian teen after his semifinal victory.

Despite losing to Laslo Djere of Serbia in the finals, the breakthrough performance in Rio de Janeiro has undoubtedly generated a significant buzz and excitement around the talented 18-year-old.

But anyone who has followed Auger-Aliassime closely knows his stellar results at the Rio Open didn’t just come out of nowhere nor was it a fluke.

The 6’4″ righty is an alumni of Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre program, which has produced a number of tennis stars, such as, Milos Raonic, Bianca Andreescu, and Brayden Schnur.

Auger-Aliassime should have been on the radar of most keen tennis observers from his days as a junior standout.

In 2016, he reached the finals of the junior boys’ French Open but lost in three sets to Geoffrey Biancaneaux. Later in 2016, he would win the junior boys’ US Open title at Flushing Meadows.

It is also interesting to note that in his short time as a pro, he shares a unique and impressive accomplishment with Richard Gasquet, Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic.

The Canadian teen from Montreal, Quebec is in elite company with the three as they are the only players in history to have won three Challenger titles prior to their 18th birthday.

Known for his athleticism, along with his big forehand and aggressive style of play, the young Canadian certainly put those parts of his game on full display during his remarkable run in Rio de Janeiro.

Even though he came up just short of winning the tournament in Brazil, the rising young tennis star says he’s learned a lot from the entire experience.

“It’s a little bit disappointing for me, seeing as I was playing for a chance to win my first (ATP) title today. But at the same time, I won’t lose too much sleep over the loss because I know that I have accomplished good things this week and I will build on the positives,” said Auger-Aliassime.

“My serve fell apart today, which is frustrating because I was serving well all week and I knew that I could do better,” he admitted.

“But these are things that happen, and it proves that I just have to get better and mature as a player and as a person in order to give myself more chances to win a title.”

And, with continued maturity and success on the tennis courts, the spotlight will undoubtedly shine brighter and brighter.

Given the fact that Auger-Aliassime has clearly demonstrated the ability to carry his success as a junior into the pro ranks, perhaps a more suitable question now for the 18-year-old would be just how he’s going to handle the attention and fame that comes with his success? And perhaps more importantly, just how far he can rise in the rankings?

Of course, only time will answer these questions – which the 18-year-old Canadian has plenty of.

But based on what we’ve seen from him in his short time as a pro, one thing is almost certain – and that is, we’re going to be hearing a lot more of the name Felix Auger-Aliassime in the months and years to come.