If you haven’t invested yourself in Canadian tennis yet, there is still time to do so. With the success of the women (Bianca Andreescu, Leylah Fernandez), you should have been clued in. However, I’ll forgive you IF you take notice of what Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are doing. On the men’s side, the Canadian duo started the year off with an ATP Cup victory and went on to make it to the Australian Open quarterfinals. On the biggest stage in tennis, they both went to five sets against two of the best tennis players in the world, Rafa Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, who would both end up being the finalists in Australia.
But out of these early successes, only one was able to continue their hot streak. Felix Auger-Aliassime’s first loss since his match against Medvedev came almost two weeks later after winning his first ATP title in Rotterdam, and it was in his second straight final in a row. FAA fell to Andrey Rublev in the Open 13 Provence final, just a week after beating him in the Rotterdam semifinal. I’d be remiss not to mention that this success has come on a hard court surface. Being a baseline player whose forehand rips through the air at an angle that can be hard to play against has been one of the biggest factors to FAA racking up wins. What I’m interested in is dissecting how FAA was able to turn his potential into results. If he keeps this up, the Canadian will be one of the most dangerous players on tour (and he is currently ranked ninth in the world!).
Here are my three favourite things about his game:
1) His serve
One of the most underrated skills in tennis seems to be serving. As much as there are other aspects of the game that are crucial to separating great players from good ones, having a solid service that you can rely upon in moments of pressure is so important. In 2022, FAA is 64% on first serves and has won 77% of his first-serve points. Oh, just to add- he is 4th in aces recorded in 2022 (at 180) (on hard court surfaces).
Watch his form. He bends his knees just low enough to get the most power and accuracy when he hits the ball on its way down. His toss is at a good height, it isn’t very low so he has enough time to wind up and rotate his entire body. He also picks and chooses his spots, making it very hard to guess where that service is going. Cool stuff!
2) Decisions During Long Rallies
Yes, I’m going back to that Medvedev match because I honestly think you could make the argument that their games are very similar! Two baseline players who don’t really go to the net as much and rely on reading their opponent in order to adapt during rallies.
Watch this rally above. Notice how they are both playing extremely reactive until FAA starts to move Medvedev to the far right, ripping a forehand that opens up a ton of court space to finish off the point. This awareness during matches is what has allowed FAA to improve and take his game to the next level. Being one step ahead of your opponent is a skill that is learned, and I’m seeing some brilliant flashes from FAA on that end.
3) Composure During Pressure Points
Pressure points, what are they? Well, you could describe it as those 30-30 moments in a service game when a player is trying to avoid a break of serve OR you could describe it as the moments in which us normal people would sweat so hard and feel our hearts palpitate because we couldn’t handle the pressure. FAA is still pretty young, but his performances in 2022 have shown that he is approaching a level of composure that will prove very useful in winning many matches.
I’ll admit, I’m not saying he’s mastered this one yet, it’s more of a skill that I’m excited to see him develop but it’s winning points like this that are so damn cool!!! To see a young player start to develop into a rising star is so good for the sport of tennis.
The rise of Canadian tennis is here. As long as he can stay healthy, Felix Auger-Aliassime is a name that you should be paying attention to. He knows it too:
So make way, because Felix Auger-Aliassime is having a breakout year. And it’s only February.