Felix Auger-Aliassime has never hidden that he looked up to Roger Federer as a kid. In 2008, he recorded the Swiss’ Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal and watched it countless times. Felix got to practise with Federer in Dubai when he was younger, and they even share a birthday (8 August).
But on Wednesday, Auger-Aliassime will play Federer in a match for the first time with a spot in the NOVENTI OPEN quarter-finals on the line.
“It’s cool. To be honest it’s a great test for me. I’ve never played Roger before. We practised a couple of years ago in Dubai, but I never had a chance to play him in a tournament, so it’s good,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Of course he’s a favourite here, he’s won 10 times. It’s going to be a good test for me to see where my game is at on the grass.”[WATCH LIVE 1]
Having watched Federer for his entire life, Auger-Aliassime knows it will take a big effort to defeat the 39-year-old. If the eight-time ATP Tour finalist is not on top of the rallies, he will be pushed to the back foot.
“If I want to give myself chances to win, I will have to dictate the points that I can dictate, starting from my serve. If I can protect my service games and be aggressive behind my serve, that’s going to help me a lot,” Auger-Aliassime said. “And then we’ll see on the return what I can do to create myself opportunities. Of course it’s going to be tough, because he does put you out of your comfort zone.
“He has everything tennis has to offer in his game, so he’s going to have many solutions to try to trick me. But I think it’s going to be important for me to try to dictate as much as I can.”
As much respect as the 20-year-old has for Federer, he does not want to let that overwhelm him when he stands across the net from the 103-time tour-level titlist. Auger-Aliassime looks up to the Swiss, but he also has a job to do.
“At this point it’s a little bit different. I think these matches, the main thing is it’s really motivating, more than other matches sometimes,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But at the same time, of course now at the point that I am during my career, I’m trying to go further and further and have better results, so I’ve put that on the side a few years ago I would say when I started playing [on the ATP Tour].
“Now I’m going to try to play my best tennis, focus on what I can do well, see what I can do to find a way to give myself chances. But I’m really focusing more on myself than the eight-year-old Felix was focusing on dreaming of playing these types of matches.”
Fresh off a final in Stuttgart and a first-round victory against Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz in Halle, Auger-Aliassime hopes to carry the momentum into his clash against Federer.
“Of course I feel confident,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I have a few wins in the past few days, so hopefully I can play a good match and give myself a chance to win.”