Allez! Felix, 17, Notches 'Statement' Top 20 Win In Toronto
Not even 18, Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime already has a Rogers Cup win to his name. The youngest player in the Top 150 of the ATP Rankings (No. 133) beat No. 18 Lucas Pouille of France on Tuesday, saving five of six break points and advancing 6-4, 6-3.
It's Auger-Aliassime's second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 win and his fourth victory of the year (4-6). The Canadian, who turns 18 on Wednesday, beat countryman Vasek Pospisil at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March.
“I think it's kind of a statement for me to win these matches, to prove to myself and others that I can compete with these guys. That I have the level to be there, to compete in the Top 100,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“I'm very happy that I have won my first match, but for me it's just another step towards where I want to go, where I want to be as a player. So I'm not the type of player to really, the type of guy, in general, to get excited for wins. I have a long-term vision, and this is just another great step in my career.”
The teenager missed a chance to play at his home Masters 1000 last year in Montreal because of a wrist injury. But he pleased the home crowd plenty in notching the biggest win of his career, a complete takedown of Pouille for his first Top 20 win.
Auger-Aliassime sprinted out of the gates, breaking in the second game and leading 5-3. He was controlling baseline rallies, keeping Pouille guessing with his two-handed backhand up the line. Auger-Aliassime stumbled while serving for the set, but he immediately broke back and fed the crowd an “Allez!”
In March, Pouille became the fifth active Frenchman to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings (also Gasquet, Monfils, Simon, Tsonga). But he's had only one Top 20 win since then (Fognini, Davis Cup in April), and he couldn't get much going against Auger-Aliassime.
The Canadian broke in the fourth game of the second set and served out the match to love. Auger-Aliassime finished with 25 winners to 16 unforced errors.
He's currently in 12th in the ATP Race To Milan. The top seven in the Race will qualify automatically, while the eighth spot will be reserved for the winner of an all-Italian qualifier tournament to be held just prior to the 21-and-under event. Last year in Milan, Auger-Aliassime's countryman Denis Shapovalov (18) was the youngest qualifier.
Auger-Aliassime turns 18 on Wednesday. He, like many 17-year-olds, has spent hours contemplating the big birthday, but now he has other things on his mind.
“It's funny because I was thinking about it the whole year. I was like, 'OK, like, this year I'm turning 18. You know, I'm going to be major in Montreal in Quebec. I was like, OK, it's all exciting.' Like, I had plans for my birthday.
“And now that the tournament is here, it's like I have another priority. It's like I'm not even thinking about my birthday, So it's kind of funny,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“For every teenager, 18th birthday is something you are waiting for. Now I'm playing the Rogers Cup, so I haven't really thought of doing anything for my birthday except playing a match.”
Playing a second-round match at your home Masters 1000 tournament on your 18th birthday? Sounds like a party.