The title of best player in men’s tennis has changed hands a few times this year. It started in the hands of Daniil Medvedev and was quickly passed on to Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard won the Australian and French Open titles. However, a series of injuries pushed him back into the pack. Novak Djokovic stepped forward from that pack once more with a Wimbledon win, but then couldn’t play the US Open and fell away. This paved the way for Carlos Alcaraz to step forward and into the world number one spot. While the teen Phenom remains there, another young star has arguably wrestled away the title of best in the game. That man is Felix Auger Aliassime and – for the time being at least – the young Canadian looks untouchable.
Felix Auger Aliassime – The Canadian Wrecking Ball Smashing Through Europe
Even the most casual of tennis fans will do well to have missed the dream run ‘FAA’ is on at the moment. He’s won 17 matches on the bounce, a streak which has given him three titles and pushed him to the front of the line for a place at the ATP Finals this year. The run is something of a surprise given he’s had a quiet couple of months. However, he’s been knocking on the door for a spot amongst the games elite for some time now. Tired of waiting for an answer, this run in Europe looks like his way of smashing the door down. In a year of firsts for the young superstar, it’s only fitting that we look back on the stellar year ‘FAA’ has had so far.
Breakthrough in Rotterdam Ends Finals Curse for FAA
Much was made of the fact ‘FAA’ lost eight finals in a row before the start of this year and rightly so. He didn’t just lose them, he disappeared and failed to pick up a set across the eight matches. As such, he entered 2022 with real questions about his ability to play well in the big moments. He then wasted little time answering those questions with his first ATP title in Rotterdam. He wrapped up the title on Valentines Day and looked set for a big year on the tour. A quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open just before his title run gave the impression that Auger Aliassime was ready for a big year. However, after Rotterdam he offered little by way of solid results.
The Canadian only won three consecutive matches once across his next nine tournaments. A great showing against Nadal at the French Open appeared to be a turning of the tide. That was not the case, and ‘FAA’ failed to notch three wins in all the tournaments that followed. His tennis looked good but the results just weren’t there. He’d looked a certainty for a spot in Turin after the first three months of the year. Six months of mediocre results later, that career goal was hanging by a thread. Then he arrived in Florence and – and I cannot emphasise this enough – absolutely demolished any and all comers across three weeks of breath-taking tennis since the start of that tournament.
Three Titles, Zero Sets Dropped in Finals, One Spot in Turin Please
It is fair to say that Auger Aliassime’s run hasn’t included too many matches against the best of the best in the men’s game. Nonetheless, a straight sets win over Alcaraz and several top 20 and 30 victories across the three weeks have left us in no doubt. FAA means business, and he wants a spot in Turin. In Florence he toppled the likes of Lorenzo Musetti and Brandon Nakashima. Next up, Dan Evans and Sebastian Korda did their best to stop him in Antwerp and failed. In Basel, Miomir Kecmanovic and Holger Rune faired no better than Alcaraz did. Across the three weeks Auger Aliassime dropped exactly one set in each tournament he played. None of those came in finals matches.
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This is the same man who was in danger of setting the record for the longest run of ATP Tour finals without a title when he came into 2022. Now he has four of them, each won without dropping a set. He’s a Grand Slam quarterfinalist across two Grand Slams and a semifinalist in a third. He’s now #6 in the world and genuinely looks like the best player in men’s tennis at the moment. If he continues this run into Paris and wins the ATP 1000 event there then the debate ends until 2023. A title in Paris means FAA walks into the ATP Finals as undoubtedly the best player in the men’s game on current form. Even if he falls short, his level over the last three weeks gives him a stronger case than most.,
Come What May, 2022 is a Year to Remember for the Young Canadian Star
No matter how the year ends for Auger Aliassime, he’s put the world on notice. Yes Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Casper Ruud are exiting young talents who look ready to give Nadal, Djokovic, Medvedev and the like headaches for years to come. However, FAA is just as ready for the big time. He’s had the game for years. Now that he’s got the mentality to match it, we may well be about to witness something special. All those casual tennis fans I mentioned at the start of this piece, remember the name Auger Aliassime. He looks set to be the answer to a few “who won the title…?” questions in pub quizzes for years to come.