Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime shares more than just a birthday with Roger Federer
Montreal native trained with Swiss legend earlier this month
Felix Auger-Aliassime shares the same birthday as his idol Roger Federer, but if his tennis career continues to progress the way it has, it might not be the only thing the Montreal native will have in common with the Swiss legend.
At 16 years and 10 months, Auger-Aliassime became the seventh youngest player to win an ATP Challenger tournament — a tier below the ATP World Tour — after his triumph in Lyon this past June.
Auger-Aliassime followed that up with another Challenger title in September, which put the 17-year-old into the record books once again as the youngest to reach the world's top 200 since Rafael Nadal did it in 2002, and the second youngest to capture multiple Challenger events in a year.
El canadiense Felix Auger-Aliassime ganó el Challenger de Lyon con tan solo 16 años y 10 meses. ¡La <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NextGen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NextGen</a> pisa fuerte en el circuito! <a href="https://t.co/ScyUrfkc3m">pic.twitter.com/ScyUrfkc3m</a>—@Challenger_UIO
The only thing slowing him down lately is a knee injury suffered in training last week which will keep Auger-Aliassime out of the upcoming Australian Open. In a statement sent out on Twitter, Auger-Aliassime said he and his team "judged that it would be safer to skip the Australian Open to start 2018 healthy."
Prior to that, though, the Canadian trained with Federer in Dubai, where the 19-time Grand Slam singles champion often prepares for the upcoming season.
"You will always motivate yourself by comparing yourself to the best in the world," Auger-Aliassime said on a conference call last month before leaving for Dubai. "I admire everything he does on court, off court, the person he is. And my coaches will be there so we can observe more closely what he does well, why he plays at such a high level."
It's become an unofficial tradition for the 36-year-old Federer to reach out and provide some guidance for some of the sport's emerging stars.
"I think [Federer] wants to help the new generation," Louis Borfiga, Tennis Canada's vice-president of high performance, told reporters in November. "I also think he likes Felix and his personality. He wants to give back some of what tennis has given to him. He wants to help Felix … maybe avoid some of the traps that would be good to avoid at his age."
Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis and American Jared Donaldson are two of the young guns who have been invited to train with Federer in recent years.
Donaldson recalls Federer performing drills specific to his own style of play and that was echoed by Kokkinakis, who saw him work on the little things that separated the Swiss Maestro from the rest of the field.
One of the things that stood out to Donaldson was the team surrounding Federer — it was supportive, honest, and got along well.
Close inner circle
It's the kind of environment Auger-Aliassime has had since entering Canada's National Training Centre (NTC) full-time in 2014.
The facility is where the country's top junior players are recruited and developed and where Auger-Aliassime met his current coach, Guillaume Marx.
Auger-Aliassime describes it as a place where every coach cares about what they're doing with their players, and if seeking another voice will help their pupil, they're all for it.
The Canadian teenager added Frédéric Fontang to his coaching staff, a man who most notably helped compatriot Vasek Pospisil and Frenchman Jérémy Chardy reach the world's top 30.
"Guillaume welcomed another mind into the team. Everyone is working great together. It's been a stable environment so that's what I'm looking for," Auger-Aliassime said.
"Adding Frédéric Fontang is great because he's a really experienced coach in [terms of] growing players up the rankings. He's adding a lot of things technically with his knowledge of the game."
Like his idol, Auger-Aliassime has a good on grasp on recognizing the little holes in his game, and what he needs to do to fine-tune them so he can reach his full potential.
"I have to rebuild a good physical base with my stamina, upper body, lower body, [explosiveness], and then just keep working on my technique because I'm still young," Auger-Aliassime said.
"I want to be more precise with what I'm doing and I think that will help me take a big step in the rankings if I can stabilize and perfect some things in my game. For a player like me at 17, there's a lot of things that I can still improve and that's what's really great."