Why Felix Says The Grass Is Always Greener
Felix Auger-Aliassime reached the final at the MercedesCup, an ATP 250 event based in Stuttgart, in 2019. The 20-year-old Canadian, who has reached seven ATP Tour finals, is set to get his grass-court season underway this week in the German city.
The #NextGenATP star held an 8-5 record on grass in 2019 and sat down with ATPTour.com to discuss why he would have loved to have faced John McEnroe on the surface, his memories from the incredible Wimbledon final in 2008, and more.
Biggest adjustment physically when switching to grass?
The movement is so different. The steps you take to get to the ball and to change direction and the sliding is different, you don’t try to slide on grass. Usually, it is not a good thing, even though these days we are seeing more and more players being able to slide to get to a drop shot or to defend, so the movement is completely different. You have to be more careful with your steps, you are not moving the same as any other surfaces so that is quite an adjustment. The bounce is lower, you have to get lower on your legs and bend forward a lot more so I remember past years I would get lower back pain or tightness. That is something very recurrent when playing on grass.
Do you suffer from allergies on the grass?
No, I haven't. I have played the grass season once before and it was successful for me.
The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to grass-court tennis?
It is so unique. The first thing that comes to mind is the beauty of it, how nice the feeling is under your feet to be on something so soft and so nice and I think that the fact that we move and there is no sound, just the sound of the ball you hit is a very nice feeling. I think all the players appreciate this little stretch of the season we have, where we play on this unique surface because in the end, it is the most organic surface we have, so it is quite different.
Your favourite thing about playing on grass?
It suites my game I think. I was successful on it two years ago and in the future, I feel I will be able to play well on this surface. It is a surface that when you are aggressive and move forward and have a good serve like I do you can come into the net. Usually, you have good chances of playing well so overall I like the game on the grass. You can also use variety and mix up the spins which is an advantage on grass, so overall it makes for interesting matches and match-ups.
The worst thing about playing on grass?
Movement is tough, you have to adjust. It takes a couple of days or a week to really get into a nice rhythm with the movement so I think that is probably for me one of the toughest things is to move well on grass.
Most memorable Wimbledon match as a fan?
With my generation, of course, Rafa and Roger and the big rivalry they had, so we all think of the 2008 final. That is for me the most memorable one and then also the 2019 final [Djokovic d. Federer] which was a pretty epic one that ended in a tie-break at 12-12 and was pretty crazy, saving match points so, I think that will end up as one of the most epic matches of Wimbledon. In 2008, I was eight-years-old in Canada in my hometown and I had the match on a DVD and recorded it and I would play it again and watch it over and over again. I don’t know how many times I have watched that match but at some point, I knew everything that was happening and the score.
For playing on grass, do you prefer all white or something with colour?
I like the all-white. It is the only time during the year when you have all the players in all white. I think it brings a vintage look like you would see in old country clubs and classic clubs. I like it, it is very unique, and honestly if I had to choose for the few tournaments we had, especially Wimbledon, that is going to stay that way forever and I like it.
That is not easy because you want to bring a family member, like my dad, for him to experience that. Hopefully, he gets to watch my match one day on the Centre Court in the box. I am sure my girlfriend would love it and as a celebrity David Beckham has been going to Wimbledon for many years, so it would be pretty cool to see him next to you in the royal box.
Serve and volley or chip and charge?
I would say serve and volley. I think I have one of the good serves on the tour and I think I can use that for my advantage and that is what I would go for more than chip and charge.
Fresh cut grass or worn-down grass?
Worn out a little bit. I talked about the movement earlier and honestly when it is worn out, I just feel it is almost easier to move in a way. It doesn’t look as nice for the people and when you watch on TV but sometimes as a player, it makes the movement a little easier. But the feeling of stepping for the first time on the fresh Wimbledon grass is also really special. It is also a good sign if you are on a court that is worn out as you are at the end of the tournament.
If you could play any player from any generation on grass, who would it be and why?
I would go with John McEnroe. I think that would be cool. Of course, there have been other amazing players who have played on grass like Roger [Federer] as well, and I think Roger would be pretty exciting from the videos I have watched of him. He is such a special and exciting player to watch and I think it would be cool to play him in an event like Wimbledon. [Against Federer], I would like to dictate because he is going to try and mix it up and come to the net and put pressure on me. I would try and dictate the points and not react to what he is doing to me and play with my stronger shot on his weaker shot and expose that. If I am playing him now, I will try and make him move. If I had to play him it would be two opposing styles. [On McEnroe}, it makes the match exciting when you have a player like John who gets the crowd into it and fights with referees. It just makes it more exciting.
Build the perfect grass-court player - forehand, backhand, serve, volley, slice
Serve, Milos Raonic. He has made finals [at Wimbledon] so I think I am pretty safe with that. Forehand, Roger Federer, and backhand I’d go with Novak Djokovic. Volley, Nicolas Mahut, and for the slice, Feliciano Lopez.
Three things you would bring while waiting in the Wimbledon Queue overnight?
These days we all use our phones while waiting but of course, I would try and not go alone and be with someone I would have a good time with. Then probably a little book about tennis to pass the time. In my position, I know everything about tennis but if someone comes to Wimbledon for the first time and wants to know a little bit about the history of the tournament or wants to know more about tennis, waiting in the queue I do not think there is anything better.