The Copa Sevilla was more than Félix Auger-Aliassime’s second Challenger title of the year.
It was also a learning experience for the 17-year-old who, as of today, is the youngest player in the top 200 with his new career-high ranking of No. 168.
He won his first-round match in a third-set tiebreaker. And he also defeated Filip Krajinovic of Serbia in the semifinals after being right on the edge of defeat in the second set.
There was a large crowd for the final, which pitted the Canadian teenager against veteran Spaniard Iñigo Cervantes. But despite the tournament being in Spain, Auger-Aliassime had the lion’s share of the support.
In fact, Cervantes later posted on social media about how disappointed he was, and about some of the fairly egregious things people were yelling at him.
One of Cervantes’ followers also raised the possibility that a group of the fans had gotten together to make a substantial wager on Auger-Aliassime pulling out the win.
The Canadian he was down a set and 0-3 before coming back to win 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3.
“All week, those people were at practically all my matches. I guess they wanted to cheer on a young player coming up. But yeah, in the final, I was a bit surprised,” Auger-Aliassime told Tennis.Life on a conference call Monday afternoon about the crowd support.
The ending was more than dramatic.
We recounted it here. But Auger-Aliassime added a few details.
“Cervantes hit a forehand. I saw it on the line, and I played it. The linesman called it wide,” Auger-Aliassime recalled.
He went to the net, where Cervantes and the umpire already were in earnest discussion. “There was a moment of silence. And I said I saw it good. But no one could find the mark – not the linesman, not the chair umpire. So in that case, you stay with the call. So I could have won the match like that,” he said.
Honesty the best policy?
At that point, Cervantes, who is a sly customer, pointed out to Auger-Aliassime that if he saw the ball good, he could ask for the point to be replayed.
Of course, Auger-Aliassime is absolutely under no obligation to do that. It’s not his job to call the lines. His rookie mistake, at that point, was to call it the way he saw it, tell the chair umpire and his opponent, and allow Cervantes to engage.
“It was the right thing to replay the point. And in the heat of the moment I thought it was the right thing,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But going to my towel afterwards, I thought to myself, ‘did I do something stupid? I could lose the match because of that.’
“At the same time, thinking it over later, I would still do the same thing,” he added. “Because the ball really was good. But it was a good lesson.”
Luckily for the 17-year-old, he popped a big first serve on the replay and finished off the match with an equally big inside-out forehand.
Not a clay specialist – yet
Auger-Aliassime said that the fact that both his Challenger titles have come on red clay doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his best surface. Although he does think that all the play on it this season in Europe and even in China definitely has improved his clay-court skills.
It was more a matter of timing.
“Coming back from my (wrist) injury, I missed the whole American-Canadian (hard-court) swing. So I started back at the US Open (qualifying). I wanted to keep going, and the only tournaments that were accessible were in Asia or Europe,” he said. “I wanted to play right away. And since I’d been playing well on clay lately, we decided to come to Europe.”
Lots more tennis in 2017
The kid is planning to make up for lost time. After this clay-court swing, he is entered in three $100,000 hard-court Challengers in California in October: Tiburon, Stockton and Fairfield.
After that, it’s back to Europe to wrap up the season. Maybe more Challengers – and perhaps even the ATP Tour event in Basel, his birthday twin Roger Federer’s hometown tournament.
Auger-Aliassime’s good friend Denis Shapovalov also is entered in that event. (It seems as though Shapovalov plans to play almost every week until the end of the season, from Davis Cup in Edmonton, to Prague for the Laver Cup, to Orléans, France, to Asia and back to Europe).
The main-draw cutoff for Basel traditionally is awfully tough, though. Shapovalov might well squeeze in; Auger-Aliassime could make it into the qualifying.
How about a wild card in doubles for the 2015 US Open junior doubles champs?