Felix Auger-Aliassime is coming to the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. The 19-year-old prodigy is set to make his debut at the 21-and-under event, to be held 5-9 November in Milan.
Auger-Aliassime, a three-time ATP Tour finalist this season, punched his ticket after both American Frances Tiafoe and Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia fell in their openers at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
“I’ve heard great things in the past about this competition and what it brings new to tennis, so I’m looking forward to playing good tennis there and to have many of you guys come. So see you in Milan,” Auger-Aliassime said in a message to fans.
Here are five things to know about the #NextGenATP star.
1. He’s the youngest three-time finalist since Rafael Nadal.
Back in February, Auger-Aliassime had yet to crack the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. Heading into the Rio Open presented by Claro, he was No. 104.
In Rio, however, he quickly changed that, reaching his first semi-final and final and becoming the youngest ATP 500 finalist (l. to Djere) in series history (since 2009).
Auger-Aliassime, who reached a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 19 in August, has reached three ATP Tour finals this season. On clay in Lyon, he fell to home favourite Benoit Paire, and on grass in Stuttgart, he lost to Italy’s Matteo Berrettini. Auger-Aliassime is the youngest three-time ATP Tour finalist since Nadal, ages 17-18 (2004 Auckland, 2004 Sopot, 2005 Costa do Sauipe).
“I think I surprised myself every match this week being able to reach another final and my first one on grass, so it’s been amazing,” Auger-Aliassime said after Stuttgart.
He was competing in his first grass-court tournament as a professional.
2. He shares a birthday with Roger Federer.
Auger-Aliassime turned 19 on 8 August, the same day Federer celebrated his 38th birthday. But while Federer was prepping for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Auger-Aliassime was celebrating with 11,000 of his closest friends in his hometown of Montreal.
Auger-Aliassime took the opening set against World No. 8 Karen Khachanov in their third-round contest, which enlivened the packed IGA Stadium.
“I never heard a stadium yell like this, sound like this, an atmosphere like this. It was incredible. At the changeover at 6-all, I could see the people there. I was raising my fist, and I felt energy coming up my legs. It was the first time I ever felt that. It was incredible,” he said.
Khachanov came back to make the quarter-finals, but Auger-Aliassime left his home Masters 1000 event encouraged.
“I have to stay proud of what I’ve done. For sure I’m frustrated because it was a big occasion. There was a lot of expectations, pressure, you name it. I think I handled that well,” he said. “But to be playing good and to lead in a match, to have a chance to win… It’s tough to see it slip away, but there’s a reason for that. It just means that I still have things to improve to win these types of matches and to deal better with these types of moments.”
3. He’s the youngest player inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings.
Auger-Aliassime is the only teenager inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. Alex de Minaur, 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up, and Auger-Aliassime’s countryman Denis Shapovalov, both 20, are the second and third youngest, respectively.
Italy’s Jannik Sinner, 18, is close to cracking the Top 100 at No. 127.
4. His rapid improvement should be ‘scary for a lot of people’.
Auger-Aliassime has been tapped by some, including former World No. 1 Andy Roddick, as the best of the #NextGenATP. Earlier this year, the American explained to ATPTour.com what he specifically likes about the Canadian’s game.
“Something I look for is easy power. I think most guys on Tour, if they set up and want to hit a ball hard, they can. The really, really great ones — you think of Roger, I think of a guy like Tomas Berdych — it doesn’t look like he’s swinging out of his shoes, but the ball kind of launches off of his racquet. And maybe you can’t see the ball on TV, but you can feel it playing against him,” Roddick said. “Felix seems to have that easy power. When he’s going after a ball, it doesn’t look out of sorts. It looks like the technique is pretty much the same.”
More On Felix:
Roddick Explains Why Felix Is ‘Next Best Prospect’
Where Were Federer, Nadal, Djokovic & Murray At Nadal’s Age?
Felix Taking Flight: The Rapid Ascent Of Auger-Aliassime
Felix On Nadal Compliment: ‘It’s Just Amazing’
Roddick, a five-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, also said that Auger-Aliassime’s rapid improvement is perhaps the most encouraging attribute about the teenager.
“Things that will improve when you’re young, when you’re 18, movement always gets better, power always becomes more. That’s just going to happen, and he already does both of those things pretty well,” Roddick said.
“Even looking at his serve from last summer, I’ll get the statistics wrong, but I want to say it looked like a 115, 120 serve and now all of a sudden you look at him this summer and it’s looking like 125, 130, starting to look like a weapon, and that should be scary for a lot of people.”
5. He’s been on tennis fans’ radar for years.
Auger-Aliassime has been making headlines since he was 14, when he became the first player born in the 2000s to earn a position in the ATP Rankings.
In 2017, Auger-Aliassime, then 17 years, 1 month and 5 days old, became the fourth-youngest player to crack the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings. Only Richard Gasquet, Nadal and Lleyton Hewitt had accomplished the feat earlier.