LONDON – They had to get through their first-round matches first – the only players who hadn’t at least started them as Thursday dawned.
But Félix Auger-Aliassime defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4.
A few minutes earlier, on an adjacent court, Nick Kyrgios took care of lucky loser Roberto Carballes Baena 7-6 (4), 6-3.
There was, as you might imagine, considerably more drama on Kyrgios’s court, as supervisor Ali Nili had to come out after a disputed line call.
And a few … pleasantries were exchanged with chair umpire Fergus Murphy.
But both got it done.
And late in the afternoon in London, these two charismatic, interesting players will meet for the first time in their careers.
Kyrgios, currently ranked No. 39, turned 24 in April.
Auger-Aliassime, currently at a career-high No. 21, doesn’t turn 19 until August.
From fave to opponent
When we did a pre-tournament interview with Auger-Aliassime in the players’ lounge Monday, Kyrgios had just come back from a press conference of his own – in high spirits, playing ping pong (as he’s wont to do).
He’s a different fellow down there, away from the cameras and off the court.
Auger-Aliassime just sort of looked at him, bemused. The Canadian is about as polar opposite as you can get to the fiery Aussie.
His work ethic is already legendary amongst his peers. Every opponent he plays basically says what an amazing guy he is. He is, as they say, a seeeeerious kid with an impeccable reputation already.
Kyrgios is also popular in the locker room. But it’s a different kind of thing – a bit of a guy thing, if you will. It’s like, “Yeah, not a huge fan of some of the things he does on the court, but he’s a great guy.”
Let’s put it this way: you know Auger-Aliassime got a good night’s sleep.
Kyrgios, with potentially two matches to play, was up until 3 a.m. playing FIFA.
Kyrgios the pied piper
Wherever we see Kyrgios play, it seems that there is always a big gang of teenaged boys and young adults rapt with attention at everything he does.
During his match against Carballes Baena Thursday, the grounds crew on the next court all stood there and watched him for quite a while.
And … let’s flash back nearly four years, to the 2015 Rogers Cup in Montreal.
Kyrgios had just turned 20. And was ranked almost exactly where he is now, at No. 38.
He and his pal Jack Sock (who has been out since the Australian Open with a hand injury) practiced together and entertained the crowd.
Among that crowd were some kids from Tennis Canada’s national training centre. And among those kids was … Auger-Aliassime, who had turned 15 just a few days before.
Take a look. It’s a crazy time warp.
Flash forward four years, and it is the kid who is the seeded player at Queen’s Club on the grass – and the on-paper favorite in this match.
Life happens quickly, huh?
Meanwhile, it seems Kyrgios, who was on Court 2 for much of the time Auger-Aliassime was playing on Court 1 earlier today, decided to do some advance scouting during his match.
Just Nick. Just peeking over the fence to watch the match on adjacent court during changeover in his own R1 match. pic.twitter.com/ziEuniCBYd
— Oleg S. (@AnnaK_4ever) June 20, 2019