Canadian teenager Félix Auger-Aliassime leaves for Dubai on Saturday.
What follows will be the start of an eye-opening experience as the 17-year-old trains with Roger Federer for two weeks.
“We’re communicating with his coach. Not sure which day he arrives but it will be for two weeks, from (December) 5 to 20. I’ll mostly train with him; no guarantee on what I will do, but it’s becoming clearer,” Auger-Aliassime said in a conference call with the media Wednesday afternoon.
He said it was a great chance to learn from the best.
“You will always motivate yourself by comparing yourself to the best in the world, he said. “It’s a great opportunity, so you have to take advantage of it. But mostly I’ll be trying to prepare myself the best way possible for the 2018 season.”
Auger-Aliassime said he felt the same way as “anyone who follows tennis” about the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
“I admire everything he does on court, off court, the person he is. And my coaches will be there so we can observe more closely what he does well, why he plays at such a high level,” he said. “I don’t know much about him, but I can’t wait to get there, and I can’t wait to train two weeks with him.”
The Canadian, who is 16 months younger than his great friend and frequent doubles partner Denis Shapovalov, has been (somewhat mercifully) improving out of the spotlight a little bit because of what Shapovalov accomplished this summer.
Stable team, steady improvement
But with the exception of the two months he missed during the summer with a wrist injury, Auger-Aliassime made impressive, steady progress up the rankings in his first year out of the juniors.
To his longtime coach Guillaume Marx, with whom he’s been working at the National Training Centre in Montreal for several years, an additional coach has been added.
With Frédéric Fontang, an experienced coach who worked with Auger-Aliassime’s countryman Vasek Pospisil for for years, there is another pair of eyes, another tennis mind to contribute fresh insight.
“Everyone is working great together. It’s been great, and really a stable environment, so that’s what I’m looking for,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“There are a few things I have to work on physically, because I’ve been playing a lot the last part of the year. I have to rebuild a good physical base – with my stamina, my upper body, lower body, explosiveness,” he added. “As well, just keep working on my technique, because I’m still young.
“I want to be more precise in what I’m doing. That will help me make a big step in the rankings, if I can stabilize some things to perfection.”
Major rankings rise in 2017
At the beginning of the season, Auger-Aliassime’s ATP Tour ranking stood at No. 614.
He’s currently at No. 162, just off a career high of No. 153 reached last month.
And he has goals for 2018.
“I’m already playing the qualifying in Australia, so the goal is to qualify for a Grand Slam. Obviously I’d like to qualify for all of them, but let’s start with one,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Then, to be main draw at the US Open, and finish the year in the top 100. It’s an ambitious but quite realistic goal for me. If I put the right things in place, it’s accessible.”
The quick ascent to stardom by his friend Shapovalov is motivating, but not something he looks to as some sort of benchmark.
“We’re very competitive, both of us. Of course you look at it, you want to perform as he did. But you always have to remind yourself that each has their own path. You look at (Milos) Raonic’s path, and those of others who got to the top. They’re all different.
“At the end of the day I’m happy with the work I did this year, and will set my goals with my coaches, but try not to compare myself too much,” he said.
Keeping it simple
Auger-Aliassime said he’s not at a point where he’s looking to add any sponsors, take advantage financially of the increased attention he received in 2017.
He has been with Nike since the beginning of the year after wearing clothes from his racket sponsor, Babolat, before that.
And, unlike some players who have changed racket sponsors as their pro careers blossomed, he just renewed with Babolat. “I’m in a stable situation with my sponsors, and at the moment I’m not looking to associate myself with more,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of year I have in 2018, and maybe there will be more signings at the end of the season.”
After the Federer training camp, Auger-Aliassime’s first scheduled tournament is a Challenger event in Playford, Australia the first week of January.
He’ll then move on to Melbourne, where he’ll attempt to qualify for the first Grand Slam main draw of his young career.