Following his October three-peat, has the new and improved Auger-Aliassime come to play?

Following his October three-peat, has the new and improved Auger-Aliassime come to play?
Following his October three-peat, has the new and improved Auger-Aliassime come to play?
Following his October three-peat, has the new and improved Auger-Aliassime come to play?
Before Felix Auger-Aliassime (22) arrived in Florence at the start of October, his place in the ATP Finals in Turin was far from guaranteed, with Taylor Fritz and Hubert Hurkacz just over his shoulder. However, after three scintillating weeks playing his best-ever tennis, culminating in three back-to-back titles, the Canadian is almost certain to take part in the season-ending finals.

Auger-Aliassime has been a prestigious talent ever since he arrived on the ATP Tour. A graceful and elegant prospect who looked to be the complete package, the Canadian became the youngest player to ever reach an ATP 500 final at just 18 years old. 

Despite losing to Laslo Dere in that final in Rio, it was obvious that tennis had a phenomenal starlet on their hands.

Even at the Challengers level, he became the second youngest player (17) to win multiple titles.

However, since that moment in 2019, Auger-Aliassime perhaps hasn't progressed in the way many thought he would. This may be a harsh statement - he is still just 22 years old playing in a golden era of men's tennis - as he has plenty of time on his side.

But three years riddled with inconsistencies and going trophyless wasn't what a man of his undoubted quality was expected to do.

When at his best, his forehand can be a force of nature. He possesses such effortless power and he is able to flatten an opponent when fully dialled in. Alongside that, he has one of the biggest and most accurate serves, a solid backhand, cute touches at the net and he moves around the court with such ease.

Auger-Aliassime celebrates winning a point

The issue is, before 2022, seeing all facets of his game come together at once was a rarety. His forehand could break down to such an extreme extent, often hitting shots off the edge of his racket.

Missing first serves and hitting double faults when under pressure was a common occurrence for Auger-Aliassime. Unforced errors would litter his game, and his opponents would regularly be gifted matches rather than grabbing a stranglehold of them and winning them with their quality.

And his inability to really maintain a high level throughout matches was emphasised by his finals record before this year.

The world number eight got to eight finals between 2019 and 2021. In all eight, he lost in straight sets and failed to impose himself on those contests in any type of fashion.

In the Open Era (last 53 years), only Julien Benneteau had a worse record (0-10). But, the Frenchman had won sets in finals. 

But this all changed in 2022. Right at the start of the year at the ATP Cup, he helped inspire Canada to success at the team tournament, as they beat Spain in the final. His victory over Roberto Bautista-Agut (7-6(3), 6-3) to open their account was vital in their victory.

He headed to the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, full of confidence, which was reflected in his performances. After beating former US Open champion Marin Cilic (6-2, 6-7(7), 6-2, 7-6(4)) in the round of 16, he went two sets up against the favourite to win the competition, Daniil Medvedev, in the quarter-finals. However, the Russian mounted a comeback in a thrilling match (6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4). to claim victory.

Perhaps today's version of Auger-Aliassime might have won that game. He looked in control for large portions of the battle, but made errors at crucial times to give Medvedev lifelines, which has been the recurrent issue with him.

However, it was still an accomplished performance and he played at such a high level for longer spells than normal. There was just more fine-tuning needed.

With this confidence though, he headed to Rotterdam. After knocking out Andy Murray, Cameron Norrie and Andrey Rublev en route to the final, only Stefanos Tsitsipas stood in his way.

In his ninth time of trying, Auger-Aliassime finally clinched his first ATP title, dismantling the Greek in straight sets (6-4, 6-2). Was this finally the moment where he began to fulfill his potential?

A week later, he reached another final in Marseille, but lost a really tight battle to Rublev (7-5,7-6), who gained his revenge. Despite another match in which he seemed to hand his opponent the victory with too many unforced errors, the last few months had been hugely positive.

But over the next months, he seemed to revert to type. Round of 64 defeats to Botic van de Zandschulp and Miomir Kecmanovic at Indian Wells and Miami respectively, as well as defeat to Alex Molcan (6-4, 2-6, 7-6(7)) in Morroco were timid and a shadow of the man we saw at the beginning of the year.

His results continued to be mixed.

A first round defeat in Wimbledon and a second round defeat at the US Open were particularly disappointing, purely because his Grand Slam record in the last 12 months was pretty impressive.

He reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2021, beating Alexander Zverev (6-4, 7-6(6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4) on the way, and also got to the semi-finals in America in the same year. At the U.S. Open, he beat Bautista-Agut, Frances Tiafoe and Carlos Alcaraz, before losing to the eventual champion Medvedev (6-4, 7-5, 6-2).

His loss against Jack Draper (6-4, 6-4, 6-4) at Flushing Meadows this year fully summed him up. Against a talented player, he racked up 41 unforced errors, compared to Draper's 17. Just criminal in the tough tennis world.

So his failings at the same competitions he previously did so well in was just illustrative of the inconsistent nature of Auger-Aliassime. This was further summed up be the fact that his quarter final run in Australia was so impressive, and at Roland Garros months later he took the 'King of Clay', Rafael Nadal, to five sets (3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3) in the round of 16 with a sensational performance.

He was agonisingly close to beating the Spaniard on his turf. Although, he did become just the third person ever to take Nadal to five sets at the French Open, after Novak Djokovic and John Isner.

The last 12 months had been an improvement, but he was still far from what many expected him to become.

He would go on to reach four consecutive Masters Series quarter-finals at Madrid, Rome, Canada and Cincinatti - an impressive feat. Yet in all those matches, he lost in straight sets.

In between those, he reached the semi finals at the Libema Open, before losing to Tim Van Rijthoven (6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (3)), a wildcard and someone who was taking part in just their second ever main circuit tournament.

However, something seemed to change in September. Arriving at the Davis Cup in Valencia, Auger-Aliassime knew he had a job on his hands to help a Denis Shapovalov-less Canada escape a group with Serbia and Spain in it - who had the newly crowned US Open champion Alcaraz in their side.

Losing to Korea's Soonwoo Kwon in straight sets (7-6(5), 6-3) wasn't ideal, but he made amends with a jaw-droppingly good win against Alcaraz (6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2), and then a victory over Kecmanovic (6-3, 6-4). As a result, Canada finished second to qualify for the finals later this month.

Auger-Aliassime has openly confessed his love for the great Roger Federer, admitting that the Swiss maestro is his idol. So at the all-time great's farewell tournament at the Laver Cup, he must have been paying homage, as he beat one of Federer's great rivals, Djokovic (6-3, 7-3(3)), to help the Rest of the World claim their first ever title.

He then lost to Bautista-Agut in the round of 32 in Kazakhstan (6-4, 7-6(6))


The Spaniard is a good player and can easily frustrate opponents with his resolute and relentless groundstrokes, but Auger-Aliassime has had good results against him. Additionally, it was at the start of October and he was chasing ATP points to secure a place in the ATP Finals in Turin, which was only a month away.

He occupied the final qualification spot, and with Fritz and Hurkacz just a few hundred points away from him, alongside the fact that they were playing in tournaments of their own, he absolutely had to get some results.

So, that's when it began. 

Auger-Aliassime headed to Florence

Last eight and semi-final victories over Brandon Nakashima and Lorenzo Musetti were dominant and spectacular, and in the final he cruised past J.J. Wolf (6-4, 6-4) to claim a vital win and just his second ATP victory.

It was as relentless as anyone had seen him play in a while.

Next up was Antwerp. Rinse, repeat.

He beat Dan Evans and Richard Gasquet in fairly competitive matches to get to the final, before obliterating Sebastien Korda (6-3, 6-4) to win his second title in two weeks. 

Two weeks of high level, efficient and consistent tennis from him? Too good to be true, surely.

Quickly came Basel. For an ATP 500 tournament, Basel is pretty highly regarded. Federer has won 10 times on his own patch, and it often possesses a decent field.

A tight victory over Marc-Andrea Husler (6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4) wasn't always convincing, but what came next was undoubtedly the best tennis of the young career of Auger-Aliassime.

An utter demolition job of Kecmanovic (6-1, 6-0) in the quarters was brutal, and in the words of the man himself, 'the best match I ever played'.

He followed this up with yet another thumping, with the enigmatic Alexander Bublik (6-2, 6-3) on the receiving end. The man that stood in his way of reaching another final was Alcaraz.

They had played twice previously, and on both occasions, the Canadian had come out on top. The only difference with this contest was just how easy it was for him (6-3, 6-2).

Auger-Aliassime toyed with his opponent. He didn't give the Spaniard a single sniff. His serve was like a sledgehammer, his forehand was bludgeoning and destructive.

He gifted Alcaraz just one break point in the match, which came in the very final game. He described the Kecmanovic match as his best ever performance, but boy, this was not too far behind. 

So far it’s very close to perfect. I’ve been serving amazing, not getting broken once yet. There’s still one match to go, but it’s been a fantastic week. I’ve played some great tennis, and again today against the best player in the world," he said after the match.

Holger Rune was his opponent in the final, another man in fine form. He had won the Stockholm Open just the previous week, beating Tsitsipas (6-4, 6-4) in the final, and also reached the final in Sofia just before that.

But yet again, Auger-Aliassime battered his opponent. His forehand continued to function at a level we had never seen from him before, totally controlling points and pushing Rune all over the court.

There was absolutely nothing that the Dane could do. Auger-Aliassime was refusing to make any mistakes, and swept past his opponent (6-3, 7-5) to go back, to back, to back.

Three tournaments in three weeks. From one ATP title to four. The same man who had gone 0-8 in finals went 4-1 in 2022.

His Basel victory was special. That was the best anyone had ever seen him. He was almost faultless. Everything worked. His forehand was vicious, his backhand was powerful. Everything came together. It was just a perfect week.

His serving was just ruthless too. Every single time he was in a spot of bother or was facing a break point, he slammed down a first serve. The polar opposite of what he normally would do.

He went the whole tournament without having his serve broken. Only two other people have won a title without losing their serve this year - Nick Kyrgios and Fritz.

He also became just the third active player to win three consecutive titles in back to back week, after Murray in 2011 and Casper Ruud in 2021.

He goes into the the Paris Masters this week now brimming with confidence, on a 13-match winning streak, and on the verge of qualifying for the ATP Finals, barring a minor miracle.

His triumph in Basel lifted him up to the eighth in the rankings, and sixth in the Nitto ATP Finals race. He leapfrogged Rublev who dropped down into seventh. Normally, finishing in eighth place would be good enough to qualify, but Djokovic - who is currently outside of the top eight - won Wimbledon which granted him a berth to the Finals.

The only way Auger-Aliassime won't qualify, is if Fritz wins in Paris and Rublev reaches the semi-finals. Interestingly, the American has been drawn in the same section as him, and they are on course for a meeting in the third round.

So these last three weeks have been absolutely game changing for him, not just in terms of the race to Turin, but potentially with his career. 

So what has changed?

Firstly, maybe there should be some credit to Toni Nadal. The uncle and former coach of Rafael Nadal - who had sensational success with him - joined the coaching staff of Auger-Aliassime in April 2021.

Although there wasn't instant success - which is of course not a surprise as these things take time  - there were improvements in Grand Slam performances that year.

Toni does sit in Auger-Aliassime's team box during matches, but it is not a regular occurence. Why is this? 

Because his nephew is still on tour and if they faced each other, he would want Rafa to win. Which made their French Open encounter so awkward, when Toni was sitting front and centre in the crowd, perched so both players could very obviously see him.

"Felix is Felix, but my nephew is my nephew," he said. 

"I told Felix that when he asked me to work with him. I want Rafael to win. If he were to lose, it would be a less painful loss because the player I work with would win, but I don't like to deceive anyone; I'm Rafael's uncle and he's more than just a distant nephew."

Incredibly blunt and honest, but that is what Toni Nadal is like. And that might be exactly what the doctor ordered for Auger-Aliassime.

A tough coach who pushed Rafa to the limits on a number of occasions, maybe he can extract the absolute best out of his new student.

And could he be a factor as to why he has improved over the last 12 months, and particularly over the last months? We have seen heavier topspin on his forehand in the last year, which is a key trait of 22-time Grand Slam winner Nadal. So it is very possible.

Could the threat of missing out on a place in the ATP Finals also have forced him into producing his best ever tennis due to the pressure? Normally, Auger-Aliassime has buckled and struggled in pressurised environments, so if it is that, then regardless we are seeing a new player who is managing to maintain his level in tense situations.

There's no doubt that the playing indoors has also helped. All four of his titles have come on hard, indoor courts. The fast and flatter conditions is much more suited to the way he plays, with his big serve and forehand meaning he can hit more winners and dictate the play more.

His brisk movement also helps him reach balls in positions that other players may struggle with.

That's not to say that Auger-Aliassime can only play indoors. His all-round, complete brand of tennis suggests he can be successful on any court. His performances at all four Grand Slams in the last 12 months showcases that. But indoors is definitely one of his favourites.

Or it could be a lot more simple than that. Maybe something has just clicked with the player himself. Maybe he is just thinking with a more positive mindset, and winning his first few tournaments has taken some pressure off his shoulders.

Not everyone takes the same path in tennis, or sport in general. It's not always a straightforward linear path to the top, and for many, it can be a frustrating climb. Maybe Auger-Aliassime has gotten over the bumpiest part and feels more free.

That's why the next few weeks are so exciting for him. The upcoming events are all played indoors, and he will be coming up against the best of the best. If he has taken a turn for the better, then the coming weeks will be telling.

Paris, then Turin, then the Davis Cup finals in Malaga. We are into the business end of the tennis season now. Have these few weeks been a false dawn, or are we finally seeing the emergence of the real, new and improved, Felix Auger-Aliassime?