The ATP NextGen are finally looking like serious candidates to threaten the elite of the game. Players like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur, and Frances Tiafoe are all inside the world’s Top 30.
Sitting just behind them at #33 is Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime. Auger-Aliassime, in my opinion, looks the most likely to have the most successful career.
The 18-year-old has no areas of his game that opponents can exploit. Auger-Aliassime stands at 6’4″ and boasts a booming, accurate serve, which is backed up by his equally impressive ground-strokes. He strikes both the forehand and backhand with some serious weight, which his opponents struggle to handle. Despite growing up on slower surfaces than generations before him, the Canadian is just as comfortable in the forecourt and has treated fans to some delightful volley winners.
You can easily identify weaknesses in his rivals’s games: Tsitsipas’ movement; Shapovalov’s consistency; De Minaur’s difficulty in being aggressive; Tiafoe’s peculiar stroke mechanics. However, it is extremely tough to find a weakness in Auger-Aliassime’s arsenal. You can only imagine how strenuous it is for coaches to devise a successful game plan against the Canadian.
On top of his technical skills, Auger-Aliassime is one of the most physically gifted athletes on the ATP Tour as he covers the court with minimal ease – making it excruciatingly painful for his opponents to find a way past his defences. The options of attack are endless for the world #33, and that leads me to believe that he is the most well-rounded player to burst on the scene since Novak Djokovic.
Due to his immense talent, Auger-Aliassime has a very similar win-loss records on outdoor hard courts (64.6%), clay (71.4%), grass (75%), and indoor hard courts (60%). The most frightening aspect of the Canadian is that he is only going to improve as he starts to face the very best on a regular basis.
Four Years of Experience Already
Although he is just 18 years old, Auger-Aliassime has a wealth of experience already which may be the reason for his meteoric rise over the past few months. In 2015, the then 14-year-old Canadian became the youngest ever player to qualify for the main draw of a Challenger event. He achieved this historic feat in Drummondville, and the tennis world have been following the prodigy ever since.
At such a young age, the Canadian has 240 senior matches under his belt. Let us not forget that Auger-Aliassime has junior victories at the US Open in singles (2016), and doubles with Shapovalov (2015). At times, Auger-Aliassime seems scarily cool in some of the most heated moments in matches and that has to be attributed down to two factors: his champions mentality and wealth of experience.
Big Match Player
To be an all-time great it is imperative that you bring your very best level in the biggest of matches. From what we have seen so far, Auger-Aliassime is a big match player. Against the top twenty, the Canadian holds an incredible 5-1 record. This includes wins over Lucas Pouille, Fabio Fognini, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Borna Coric. The solitary loss was to John Isner in the semifinals of Miami, a match he certainly was not outplayed in.
The 18-year-old’s magical run in Miami solidified my thoughts that he will be the best of the current NextGen. Auger-Aliassime came through two rounds of qualifying and five rounds of the main draw to reach the semifinals. Since the start of 2019, the Canadian has climbed an astonishing 75 places in the ATP Rankings.
Canada is without a doubt the tennis nation to watch at the moment. As well as Auger-Aliassime, the country also have Denis Shapovalov and Bianca Andreescu to cheer on (both of whom are under 21). Shapovalov first broke through in 2017 where he defeated Rafael Nadal in front of his home crowd in Montreal. Since then, the 20-year-old has reached three Masters semifinals and cracked the world’s top twenty. It is starting to look like these two Canadians could be the face of the ATP Tour for years to come.
On the women’s side Bianca Andreescu has had a similar season to Auger-Aliassime as far as breakthroughs are concerned. The 18-year-old has reached two finals in 2019, most notably being her run to the title in Indian Wells where she defeated five seeds along the way. Having these two as rivals can only do Auger-Aliassime the world of good as he looks to eclipse both of them.
Could He Reach the ATP Finals in 2019?
It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Canadian will qualify for the NextGen Finals in Milan. However, the scary reality is that as a teenager, Auger-Aliassime has a legitimate shot of making the season finale in London. The 18-year-old is currently in 12th position in the Race to London with over three months of the season played already.
Auger-Aliassime only has 459 ranking points to defend for the rest of the year. To put that into perspective, the Canadian has gained 786 points this season alone. The Grand Slams are where the most ranking points are awarded, and Auger-Aliassime is yet to win a main draw match at a Major. Don’t expect that statistic to last long.
With virtually no Grand Slam points, the 18-year-old is #33 in the 52-week standings. A few deep runs at the Majors could see him crack the top eight by the end of the year. It is certainly a possibility, and I personally would not be surprised if we see him at the O2 Arena in November.
A Legend in the Making
The next 15 years of the ATP Tour look extremely intriguing due to the depth of talent in the NextGen ranks. All of them will be vying to become legends of the sport, and they will definitely have memorable careers. Felix Auger-Aliassime appears a cut above the rest. For this reason, he will be the greatest player of his generation.
Main Photo via Getty