Auger-Aliassime: I Don't Want To Be Remembered For A Final At 18
The tennis world became familiar with #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime when he was just 14, as he became the youngest player to win a main draw match on the ATP Challenger Tour. On Saturday evening, he advanced to his maiden ATP Tour final at the Rio Open presented by Claro. He is only 18 years old.
But already, Auger-Aliassime presents himself with a veteran’s mindset. Plenty of fans throughout the world will be watching Auger-Aliassime as he tries to lift his maiden ATP Tour trophy against Laslo Djere on Sunday. But the right-hander does not feel any extra pressure.
“It’s something I’ve dealt with for a few years now. You just have to manage it, work on that and focus on what you have to do every day,” Auger-Aliassime said. “For me, [winning the] title or not [winning the] title is not the most important thing today [for me], because at the end I want to have a successful career, every year. I don’t want to be remembered for just a final or just a title when I was 18.”
During Auger-Aliassime’s press conference after the Canadian defeated 2016 champion Pablo Cuevas in the semi-finals, the teenager was asked about how much breaking records means to him. Auger-Aliassime is the youngest ATP 500 finalist since the level was established in 2009. The reporter mentioned how the #NextGenATP star can be in the same conversation as Rafael Nadal, who won his first title at 18.
“It shows that I’m doing good things and I’m on the right track. But I don’t want to compare myself too much,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Nadal is Nadal. He’s an unbelievable player and person. I have a different background, different story. It’s two completely different things. It’s not the same generation at all, and I don’t want to think about it today. I just want to right now enjoy the moment, try to find a way to win tomorrow, and that’s all I’m thinking about.”
Before the tournament, the wild card owned just seven tour-level victories. But Auger-Aliassime won his first three matches this week in straight sets, including a 6-2, 6-3 triumph against No. 2 seed Fabio Fognini in the first round, his greatest win by ATP Ranking (Fognini is World No. 16). When a former Rio de Janeiro champion in Cuevas battled back to force a decider in the last four, Auger-Aliassime did not fold.
It would have been easy to feel more pressure knowing that no seeds reached the quarter-finals at the ATP 500 event, and that this could be a good opportunity for him. But Auger-Aliassime has remained focused all week.
“You have to put that out of your mind. I think that’s a trap, [if] I think that because the seeds are out, that it’s going to get easier,” Auger-Aliassime said. “These players have also just beaten great players, so sometimes it’s like this and I really put that away because today I was playing Cuevas. He won the tournament here a few years ago, so it was again a tough match. He probably could have been seeded, so that wasn’t in my head at all.”
The Brazilian crowd got behind Auger-Aliassime as he battled in the third set against the Uruguayan, and the Canadian made a heart with his hands after the match to show his appreciation to the fans.
“It’s been great. Every time you have a breakthrough as a young guy, it’s special moments and the environment is very important,” Auger-Aliassime said. “From the first day I felt like, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ From the hotel we stayed at to the places I’ve seen and the energy from the people, it’s really strong. I strongly believe that it has pushed me to where I am today this week and maybe I can get one last push with the support of the crowd tomorrow.”
Auger-Aliassime can add his name into the record books again on Sunday by breaking Alexander Zverev’s record as the youngest ATP 500 titlist (19, 2016 Halle). But to him, that’s not what’s most important.
“I’m just looking to play good tennis and go as far as I can.”