The future is now for Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The 16-year-old inducted himself into an exclusive club on Sunday, becoming the seventh youngest player to ever win an ATP Challenger event with his 6-4, 6-1 victory over 171st-ranked Frenchman Mathias Bourge in the final of the Open de Sopra Steria in Lyon, France.
“It was really tough mentally, it was tough physically. I was pushing myself to the limits almost every match but at the end of the week I found the little edge to get over these guys,” said Auger-Aliassime during a conference call Monday.
With the title, the Montreal native surged into the ATP top 250, becoming the youngest player to accomplish the feat since Juan Martin del Potro in 2005.
“It’s incredible, for sure. It’s two weeks I’ll never forget,” said Auger-Aliassime.
He will begin at No. 231, the highest debut ranking since Richard Gasquet came in at No. 212 in 2002.
After winning the U.S. Open boys’ title last year, then grabbing the Birmingham Futures title in November — his first pro tournament victory — Auger-Aliassime knew he had the skills to compete at the professional level.
“I keep on confirming that I’m at the right place. I’m able to play at a high level with the guys in futures and now at challenger level,” said Auger-Aliassime. “There was an adaptation, it took a little bit of time, but probably shorter than I thought.”
This latest triumph just counts as further affirmation. And it wasn’t like Auger-Aliassime scratched his way to the title either. He dominated.
He lost just three sets over five matches, and swept the semifinal and final, even though he entered the tournament as a wild card.
“Every tournament I play I always believe in my chances. My level wasn’t far from these guys. It was a tough start to the tournament, winning my first three matches in three sets,” said the 16-year-old.
“I think what I did during the tournament was I fought well mentally. I stayed positive every moment of every match and at the end of the week it paid off because I played my best tennis.”
Beyond his latest accomplishments, Auger-Aliassime was also the youngest player to qualify for and win a main draw match on the Challenger tour, and the youngest ever to crack the ATP top 800, both at age 14.
Heading forward, the Canadian phenom will try to qualify for the ATP Next Generation Finals in Milan in November, where the top seven, 21-and-under players and one wild-card entry will compete. His next tournaments will take place in Winnipeg and Gatineau.
For now, Auger-Aliassime is content being sandwiched between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the seventh-youngest Challenger title winner.
“I see it as motivation. I find that I’m on the right path, doing the right things. After all, it’s just staying me because I want to be a unique player,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I want to be as good as I can be.”
Even though he’s barely old enough to drive, Auger-Aliassime’s window seems to be wide open.
Time to burst through.
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CBC | Sports News