Felix's Philosophy: 'I'm Not Scared Of Losing'
The hype surrounding #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is not a secret. Under sunny skies in southern Florida on Friday at the Miami Open presented by Itau, no seats were available on Court 8 to watch the teenager play 29th seed Marton Fucsovics, so dozens of fans waited on line at several entrances outside the court just to try to get a peek.
But the only one who seems unaffected by all the attention is Auger-Aliassime himself. He’s not worried about the gravity of these moments, despite being the youngest player in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings.
“I think [it’s because] I’m not really scared of losing. It’s part of the game. When I go in a match, I always look forward, always try to look for the best outcome. So in a way I’m able to stay in the present and enjoy the game,” Auger-Aliassime told ATPTour.com. “I try to play good tennis every time I’m out there on the court, so that’s been my way of thinking and that’s how I play my best tennis as well.”
In Indian Wells, Auger-Aliassime earned his first Top 10 win against reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. Despite losing a heartbreaking third-set tie-break in the next round against Yoshihito Nishioka, the Canadian ascended to a career-high World No. 57.
Just a month ago, before a strong South American clay-court swing, Auger-Aliassime was outside the Top 100, so he’s not taking these moments for granted. Auger-Aliassime will try to reach the fourth round of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time when he faces 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Hubert Hurkacz, who shocked BNP Paribas Open champion Dominic Thiem in the second round.
“It’s going to be a third-round match to go forward in a Masters 1000, so I’m going to be super-excited and super-motivated either way,” Auger-Aliassime said before Hurkacz beat Thiem. “I don’t think there’s any extra pressure playing Hubert or Dominic. For me, it’s the same.”
While Auger-Aliassime’s clash with Hurkacz — whom he defeated at a junior tournament in France in April 2015 — will only be his 11th match at a Masters 1000, he’s focusing on playing his best tennis and absorbing everything he can.
One of Auger-Aliassime’s coaches, Frederic Fontang, said: “I think what is important is now he has more experience at these kind of tournaments. Last year we played a lot of tour-level tournaments but it was the first time, so since the beginning of the year he’s been more comfortable to be in the locker room with all the players and on the court with them. That’s why he’s also able to perform like he has been.”
Many people know the accomplishments that have put Auger-Aliassime under the spotlight. For example, at 14, he became the youngest player to win a main draw match on the ATP Challenger Tour. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there is plenty of game behind the hype, as his aggressive gamestyle has allowed him to do more than just hold his own, even at the Masters 1000s.
“I try to have a complete game. I think I can serve pretty well for my size. I can play from the baseline but also come in. I think that’s the main thing that I’ve improved over the past few months, being able to close out the points at the net,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think I’m [becoming] more and more complete, and I think that’s what I bring to these [top] guys.”
“It’s very important [to be aggressive and come to net],” Fontang added. “He has the weapons to do it, so it’s very important to have a complete game. It’s important to have these transition skills and [wanting to] finish at the net to really play well on all surfaces and to put the pressure on the opponent.”
Given the hype surrounding Felix, his run of form lately — including his first ATP Tour final at the Rio Open presented by Claro — isn’t a surprise. But it doesn’t necessarily change much for his team’s mindset.
“For sure everybody saw he had a big potential because he was one of the young players who was coming up with a lot of potential,” said Fontang, who is in his third season with the teen. “But you still have to do the work.”
And that’s what Fontang says is one of his charge’s greatest attributes. It may be easy for someone Auger-Aliassime’s age to get overconfident or succumb to pressure to perform, but the Canadian is only worrying about working his hardest day-in and day-out to improve. His immediate focus is not on his bright future ahead, but on what’s right in front of him: Hurkacz.
“For Felix, at this level, every experience is positive,” Fontang said. “He’s going to go on the court to win, and it’s another good experience.”