After Denis Shapovalov’s memorable run to the Rogers Cup semifinals in Montreal in 2017, somebody thought that his “BFF” Felix Auger Aliassime (n. 120 ATP), one year his junior, could relive the same dream a year later in Toronto. But this is tennis, not Hollywood, and after his maiden Top 20 win in the first round against Lucas Pouille (a fairly out-of-form Top 20, to tell the truth), the Canadian boy who shares his birthday with Roger Federer (8th August) ended his run against Daniil Medveded, who edged him in the second round by 7-6 in the third set.
During the week we had the opportunity to catch up with one of Auger Aliassime’s two coaches, Guillaume Marx, a Tennis Canada coach who follows Felix almost full-time together with Frenchman Frederic Fontang.
This was the first Rogers Cup for Felix: one great win with Pouille and an unlucky loss with Medvedev. How did he live this first experience in his home-town tournament, with all the extra pressures and extra demands on his time?
He didn’t do anything drastic, such as shutting down his phone or avoid the newspapers. He managed the situation, he had been thinking about it for a long time. I think he has progressively gotten used to pressure, it’s not his first experience on a big stage, and he didn’t look nervous before his first match. And when you play well everything gets easier. But he was definitely more excited than stressed.
Did he manage to celebrate his eighteenth birthday?
I think he celebrated it the night before, because on his birthday he had a match, so I think he had his cake the night before.
From a technical point of view, how has his progress been compared to what was expected of him?
I believe that technically he currently is at the level we were expecting. Somebody believes that it’s taking him too long to break in the Top-100, but we think he is progressing very well. As coaches, we are more inclined to look at his game level rather than his ranking: he has improved a lot during the last few months, while at the beginning of the year he did not play well, partly because of his injury [an injured knee forced him to skip the Australian swing in January], but now he is expressing a good level of tennis.
If Felix had won his match against Medvedev, where he has been two points away from victory, he would have reached the 105-106th position in the ranking, meaning a probable direct acceptance into the Australian Open main draw. Well, that didn’t happen, so what are his plans for the immediate future?
Next week we will be in Vancouver for the Challenger tournament, then we would go to New York for the US Open qualifying tournament. After that, we will need to see whether he will be nominated as part of the Canadian team for the Davis Cup tie in Toronto [Canada will play the Netherlands on 13-15 September in the Davis Cup World Group Play-Off] and assess his ranking at that point to figure out his schedule for the rest of the season.
It was very surprising Felix’s decision to skip the grass season completely and continue playing Challengers tournaments on clay in Europe. How was that decision taken?
Before Roland Garros we had a very long tour on clay with good results from a technical standpoint and average results. We thought we were doing a good job, catching up with what we had not done at the beginning of the year because of his injury. Therefore, we thought we could buy some time and do some more work by skipping one surface switch. Playing on grass would have meant switching from clay to grass and then from grass to hard later in the summer. Changing surface takes quite some time because you need to get used to it and that slows down the development work. Furthermore, grass is a bit of a strange surface, you don’t know how it is going to turn out, so we thought it was best to take this decision.
And what did Felix think about it? In the end, he needs to be the one buying into it, did he need convincing?
In the end what Frederic and I were suggesting did make sense, so he thought ‘why not thinking outside the box?’, and he got on board very quickly. We only had one conversation about the whole issue and the decision was made.
Every time I see Felix he looks like he has grown up? Are you monitoring his height? Do you know if he is still growing or not?
We know for sure that he grew up last year. The last time we measured him it was in January, and I don’t think he grew up in the last few months.
Do you measure him with or without hair?
Without hair, otherwise he would be too tall.
What kind of program does he follow to prevent injuries?
Every day Felix does some exercises precisely aimed at preventing injuries. When we have time we do even more work towards this, but even during days when he has a match the program needs to be followed.
A few years ago, Felix announced that he has a heart condition [tachycardia] that affects his activity. Does he need to follow a specific fitness regime because of this or take medications?
No, there are no specific precautions that need to be taken. We believe the condition is linked to his growth and it is going to disappear with time. Episodes have been extremely rare during the past two years, so we don’t need to do anything specific. Of course, we try to be careful when we see he is tired, but nothing more than that.
Is that an inborn condition?
Yes, that’s what it is.
Is there a lot of pressure on Felix for him to obtain results quickly?
He puts a lot of expectations on himself, and this helps to cope with the pressures from the outside environment. The pressure he puts on himself is more than the pressure coming from the outside. Felix is very invested in his career, he is ready to do whatever it takes to obtain the results he expects from himself and the people around him expect from him, so from our point of view there is not much to do on this aspect.to impro
Do you think the great friendship existing between Denis [Shapovalov] and Felix is positive for their careers?
I think so, they are very good friends, they push each other and the fact that their careers have followed different paths has certainly helped them. Since last year the spotlight has mainly been focused on Denis, following his success at the Rogers Cup, and this has taken some pressure off Felix, who in turn had been in the spotlight for the previous two years. The current situation is ideal: the two boys can share the load of expectations and push each other to improve.
You have said that Felix’s schedule will depend partly on him making the Davis Cup Team or not. Do you think that being part of the team at this stage in his career is a positive thing or maybe it’s a week that he could use otherwise?
I believe it is positive. Now that there are five people in the Davis Cup team it is a good thing for Felix to participate to the tie. If he were to go there as the sixth player it would be a different matter: Felix is too good a player at this stage to be just the team’s hitting partner, and it would be more useful to play a tournament during that week. But being officially part of the team is good.
How do you and Frederic Fontang share the workload?
We communicate a lot and we make all the decisions together. We share the traveling because it would be too much to do for only one person, and I follow Felix when he is in North America and he follows him while he is in Europe. We also try to schedule some training weeks together when possible, but what’s most important is that we share the traveling time.
Where is the training base for Felix?
He is based here at the Tennis Canada National Training Centre in Montreal for the time being. Maybe in future we will consider moving to a warmer place, but at the moment we stay in Montreal.
Wimbledon Daily Preview: Compelling Matchups Scheduled All Around the Grounds on Thursday
Day 4 play is headlined by top names such as Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff, and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Those names are all considerable favorites in their second round matches, so other matchups on Thursday’s schedule may be more compelling and competitive. And with many of those encounters scheduled at the same time, multiple screens are recommended.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Thursday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Filip Krajinovic (26) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Second on No.2 Court
Despite his usual poor behavior, Kyrgios survived in five on Tuesday against British wild card Paul Jubb, who is ranked outside the top 200 in the world. But Nick is in strong form this month, with an 8-3 record on grass, having reached the semifinals of both Stuttgart and Halle. Krajinovic is also in the midst of a strong grass court season, coming off a run to the final of Queen’s Club. Like Kyrgios, he also required five sets to advance in the first round. That was actually Filip’s first-ever win at SW19, as he was 0-4 prior to this fortnight. Krygios leads their head-to-head 3-0 at all levels, though they haven’t played since 2015. On grass, Nick’s formidable firepower should be plenty to prevail again over Filip, as long as he can maintain his composure.
Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Second on Court 12
On Tuesday, Andreescu achieved her first career victory at The Championships. Bianca had only played five tour-level matches on grass ahead of this year, though she’s now 5-2 on grass this month. Rybakina reached the fourth round of Wimbledon a year ago, but lost two of her three grass court matches coming into this event. In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to Andreescu based on recent form. And while Elena has accumulated 22 wins this season, only four of them have come at Majors, and none of those four against a top player like Bianca.
Barbora Krejcikova (13) vs. Viktorija Golubic – Second on Court 18
This is only Krejickova’s fourth singles match since February due to an elbow injury. Her opening round victory was her first since returning to the tour. Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist here a year ago, when she defeated both Danielle Collins and Madison Keys. Yet she has not been able to follow-up on that result, as she has a losing record since that run. They have split four previous meetings at all levels. Their most recent clash occurred two years ago in Dubai, with Barbora prevailing 6-1, 6-2. But her lack of match play, along with Viktorija’s grass prowess, make Krejcikova an underdog on this day. While results on other surfaces have not followed, Golubic is now 13-7 on grass since last season, which includes a semifinal appearance earlier this month in Nottingham.
Karolina Pliskova (6) vs. Katie Boulter (WC) – 1:30pm on Centre Court
Pliskova was the runner-up a year ago, losing the championship match to Ash Barty 6-3 in the third. Unfortunately a hand injury forced her to miss the first two months of 2022, and she’s only 9-10 this season as a result. Boulter is a 25-year-old Brit who pushed Aryna Sabalenka to three sets at last year’s event, and is 8-3 on grass at all levels this season. And just like week, Boulter beat Pliskova on grass in Eastbourne 6-4 in the third. Now can Katie repeat that result on her country’s most prestigious court? She’ll certainly have the full support of the Centre Court audience, and her experience last year on this court could prove extremely valuable. Considering Pliskova has only twice won back-to-back matches this year, an upset on Thursday feels entirely possible.
Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Jack Draper – Third on No.1 Court
This could easily become the most competitive show court match of the day. And the British crowd will be vociferously behind Draper, especially late in the day on the tournament’s second biggest court. Jack is a 20-year-old Brit who last year took a set off Novak Djokovic on Centre Court. And he’s collected 31 match wins at all levels this season, which includes four Challenger titles as well as a semifinal run just last week in Eastbourne. But de Minaur is also having a strong season. The Australian has 25 wins, all at tour level, and was also a semifinalist in Eastbourne. Both players won their first round matches in straight sets, so they’re surely feeling fresh and confident. While Alex’s defensive skills will force Jack to strike some extra balls, Draper’s offensive weapons will be rewarded on this surface. And the crowd’s encouragement may be the x-factor Draper needs to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Jordan Thompson – Tsitsipas prevailed in four sets on Tuesday, bringing his Wimbledon record to just 4-4. He’s 1-0 against Thompson, who is only 8-12 this season at tour level.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Ricardas Berankis – Nadal is now 31-3 on the year, and seemed rather unbothered by his chronic foot injury in the opening round. Earlier this season in Australia, he defeated Berankis in straight sets.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove (LL) – A victory for Swiatek on Thursday would be her 37th consecutive win, tying her with Martina Hingis for the longest women’s singles win streak across the past three decades. Lesley is a 30-year-old ranked 138th in the world who at last year’s Wimbledon earned for first-ever main draw win at a Major by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Simona Halep (16) vs. Kirsten Flipkens – Halep is on an eight-match win streak at Wimbledon, dating back to her title run in 2019. 36-year-old Flipkens has said this will be her last-ever singles tournament. She was a semifinalist here in 2013.
Coco Gauff (11) vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu – Gauff scarcely survived the first round, overcoming Elena-Gabriela Ruse 7-5 in the third. But Coco should be able to settle into the tournament from here, especially against Buzarnescu. She’s currently 127th in the world, and on Tuesday won her first WTA-level match in nearly a year.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Major of 2022 Begins on Sunday
The second Major of the year is upon us, with its unique Sunday start. Roland Garros is the only Grand Slam event where first round singles play is spread across three days.
The men’s draw is headlined by 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, defending champion Novak Djokovic, 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas, and the ATP’s breakout star of the last 12 months, Carlos Alcaraz. The 19-year-old Spaniard will play his opening match on Sunday, as will top ATP names like Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev.
The women’s draw features 12 Major singles champions, five of whom have won this event: Iga Swiatek, Barbora Krejicikova, Simona Halep, Jelena Ostapenko, and Garbine Muguruza. The 28-year-old Spaniard plays perpetual draw-buster Kaia Kanepi on Sunday. The Order of Play also includes the red-hot Ons Jabeur and US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, who faces France’s Kiki Mladenovic.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Sunday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Ons Jabeur (6) vs. Magda Linette – 11:00am on Court Philippe Chatrier
Outside of Iga Swiatek, Jabeur is the WTA player with the most momentum heading into Paris. Before losing to Swiatek in the final of Rome, Ons was on an 11-match win streak, coming off her title run in Madrid. She’s now 17-3 on clay this season, and has reached the fourth round of this tournament the last two years. She’ll be a considerable favorite against Linette on Sunday, though Magda could easily test the sixth seed. The 30-year-old from Poland was a quarterfinalist this year at clay events in Charleston and Strasbourg, and she owns victories over some top names at Majors, including Ash Barty and Elina Svitolina. They’ve met twice before on clay, with both matches going to Jabeur. That includes a three-set encounter at this event a year ago. I expect a similar result on Sunday.
Hugo Dellien vs. Dominic Thiem (PR) – 11:00am on Court Simonne Mathieu
Thiem is a two-time French Open finalist, but he is still fighting for his first win in over a year. Since coming back from his wrist injury, he is 0-6 at all levels, with all those matches occurring on clay. Earning that elusive win in the best-of-five format may prove challenging for an out-of-form player. This will be Thiem’s first match against Dellien, a 28-year-old from Bolivia who has played 43 matches on clay this season at all levels. He’s accumulated 30 wins, and advanced to two Challenger finals. However, Hugo is yet to defeat a top 40 player this year. While Dominic is not currently a member of that group, and is not performing at that level, taking out a Major champion at a Grand Slam event remains a daunting task. At a tournament where Thiem has fond memories of success, I expect Dominic is earn his first win since last May.
Garbine Muguruza (10) vs. Kaia Kanepi – Second on Court Simonne Mathieu
Muguruza is a two-time Major champion, and won the third-biggest title of her career at November’s WTA Finals in Guadalajara. But since that title run, Muguruza has struggled mightily, with a record of 7-8 in 2022. She’s won back-to-back matches only once this season. And in the opening round, she’s drawn one of the sport’s most dangerous floaters. Kanepi has made a career out of upsetting top seeds at Majors. As per Tennis Abstract, she owns nine top 10 wins at Grand Slam events, over the likes of Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, and most recently at January’s Australian Open, Aryna Sabalenka. Kaia is a seven-time quarterfinalist at Majors, including two times at Roland Garros. Her only previous meeting with Muguruza took place eight years ago in Melbourne, when Muguruza prevailed in three sets. But considering Garbine’s recent form, and Kaia’s history at Majors, this match is definitely deserving of an upset alert.
Carlos Alcaraz (6) vs. Juan Ignacio Londero (Q) – Fourth on Court Philippe Chatrier
Alcaraz has rapidly become one of the ATP’s players. Carlitos is 28-3 in 2022, with four titles. He is No.3 in the year-to-date rankings, and is within 200 points of the two players ahead of him (Nadal, Tsitsipas). The teenager arrives in Paris on a 10-match win streak on clay, having taken back-to-back titles in his home country. Londero is a former top 50 player who reached the fourth round of this event in 2019. But he is coming off multiple seasons with a losing record, and hasn’t played a match since early-April. Alcaraz should not have much trouble dismissing Londero on Sunday, though it is always a treat to see the Spaniard’s formidable skills on display.
Leylah Fernandez (17) vs. Kiki Mladenovic – Fourth on Court Suzanne Lenglen
Fernandez has not immediately been able to follow-up on her thrilling US Open run from last summer. Despite winning a title in Monterrey, she hasn’t reached a quarterfinal at any other event this year. But still only 19-years-of-age, Leylah undoubtedly has some big results ahead of her. Mladenovic was top 10 player in 2017, the same year she was a quarterfinalist at her home Slam. But the Frenchwoman is 2-4 in Paris since, and only 2-10 this season at all levels. While Kiki will certainly be motivated by the Parisian crowd, it would be surprising if she could upset Leylah, as the Canadian remains a dogged competitor who thrives on big stages.
Other Notable Matches on Sunday:
Sloane Stephens vs. Jule Niemeier (Q) – Stephens was the 2018 runner-up in Paris, and reached the fourth round a year ago. But she’s 0-4 on clay in 2022. Niemeier is a 22-year-old German who won an ITF-level event on clay last month.
Grigor Dimitrov (18) vs. Marcos Giron – Dimitrov is only 12-11 lifetime at Roland Garros, though he was a semifinalist in Monte Carlo this season. This is a rematch from last year’s French Open, when Giron defeated Dimitrov after Grigor retired during the fourth set.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Juan Pablo Varillas (Q) – Auger-Aliassime is still looking for his first main draw win at Roland Garros. He is 8-6 on clay this year. Varillas is a 26-year-old from Peru who has won 19 matches on clay this season at all levels.
Maria Sakkari (4) vs. Clara Burel – Sakkari has some scar tissue to overcome at this event, as in last year’s semifinals, she was one point away from defeating eventual champion Barbora Krejicikova. Burel is a 20-year-old from France who is a former junior No.1.
Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Sebastian Ofner (Q) – Zverev has reached the second week of this tournament four consecutive times. Ofner is a 26-year-old from Austria who prevailed at a Challenger event in Prague last month.
Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.
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