Canada sweeps Greece to open ATP Cup

BRISBANE, Australia – The young – and youngish – guns abound in Group F at the ATP Cup.

Canada has both Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Australia has Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios. Germany has Alexander Zverev.

And Greece has Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas is the most highly ranked of all of them. He’s also basically a one-man team (with all due respect to any athlete who plays, or aspires to play, professional tennis).

But with Denis Shapovalov’s 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory over Tsitsipas in a match of No. 1s that was a testing way to start a tennis season, Canada clinched a victory..

Earlier, Auger-Aliassime had the relative good fortune to square off against Michail Pervolarakis, a 23-year-old ranked No. 487.

And afterwards, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov finished off the sweep with a 6-2, 6-3 victory in doubles over Pervolarakis and … Petros Tsitsipas, a late substitute for his brother.

Goliath slays David

Pervolarakis’s last match came in December – at a $15,000 ITF event in Heraklion, Greece.

That’s the lowest level of pro tennis. And that day, he was beaten in three sets by No. 689-ranked Artem Smirnov of Ukraine.

Friday, he played his first career singles match at the ATP Tour level.

And while he showed he definitely had some game, Pervolarakis was overpowered 6-1, 6-3 by Auger-Aliassime, who is ranked 678 spots higher than Smirnov.

Here’s what it looked like.

“It truly feels good to be back on the court. With the injury I had a longer pre-season, was able to train well to get fit, and I just felt like I was doing some good things, practicing well, but the first match you don’t know what to expect,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“I didn’t know the opponent, also, so that’s a factor that is always challenging when you’re a player and so I tried to focus on what I had to do. But I was happy that overall in the match I had a great first set, couldn’t ask any better, and I was able to be solid in the second. So overall very happy to be back.”

Shapo v Tsitsi an early-season challenge

In a typical season-opening run towards the Australian Open in Melbourne, a player like Shapovalov, ranked No. 15, generally is going to get a lower-ranked player in a regular 250-level ATP Tour event. Maybe even an Australian wild card.

But with this format, almost every team’s No. 1 is a top player. That’s sort of the point of the exercise. And it’s definitely a selling point, because the top two singles players are required to play.

And so, first out of the box for Shapovalov, it was Tsitsipas. Rivals from back in their junior days, this was their fourth meeting in the upper levels of the game.

The first came two years ago in the first round of the Australian Open. Shapovalov won in straight sets. They played again in Monte Carlo in 2018 (on clay). Tsitsipas won that one.

And last year in Miami, they played an epic in the fourth round, won by Shapovalov in a third-set tiebreak.

Steady Shapo

On Friday, Shapovalov was just the steadier performer – the one who clearly had made the better adjustment to the conditions.

The Canadian, who had done some off-season training at the IMG Academy in Florida, has already been in Australia for 10 days.

Tsitsipas, although he said it wasn’t the reason he lost, spoke of an “irritation” in his shoulder and wrist. It was an issue he attributed to taking a three-week break after the season and starting up again – and also the change in conditions from Dubai to Brisbane.

In short, he didn’t seem ready for such a big task right out of the gate.

“His serve was better than mine and a few points in the tiebreak … I didn’t work out what I had to do and I didn’t have a clear picture of how I have to play, which I usually have also much more adrenaline and a rush when I’m in the tiebreak. I like playing tiebreaks,” Tsitsipas said. “Today, he was just, you know, better decision-making and he did things better than me.”

Shapovalov up for this one

Unlike Auger-Aliassime, who decided to have personal coach Fred Fontang courtside, Shapovalov went with captain Fuorivia alone. Coach Mikhail Youzhny sat behind them with the rest of the Canadian team.

It made sense, in this case. Fuorivia, who was Shapovalov’s coach as a junior and returned last spring after Shapovalov and Steckley parted ways, probably knows him better than anyone except for his mother Tessa.

At times, the tennis was impressively high level for the opening day of their seasons. It generally is with these two, who both have all-court mentalities and, of course, those sweet one-handed backhands.

“It’s definitely a huge win for me. Obviously, he had an unbelievable end to the season and he’s definitely one of the top players in the world right now. He’s got a great game,” Shapovalov said. “So to beat a guy like this first match of the year, it’s really special for me.”

The other Tsitsipas brother

As at Davis Cup, the rule in the ATP Cup is that the doubles are played even if the outcome is already decided.

(Of course, it was the rule at Davis Cup as well. But with the lack of healthy bodies on a four-man squad, the Canadians decided to forfeit their doubles against the U.S. in the round-robin).

But it took awhile.

The maximum time, if one of the No. 1 singles players is playing the doubles, is 45 minutes after the singles. It took every bit of that time. And in the end, it was Tsitsipas – younger brother Petros – who took the court instead of big brother Stefanos.

Petros, 19, is the No. 5-ranked player in Greece. His ATP Tour ranking is tied with Piotr Matuszewski of Poland at No. 1,415 in the world. He has three ATP ranking points (his brother has 5,300).

In doubles, the younger Tsitsipas did briefly break into the top 1,000 in 2019, peaking at No. 973 in October.

So all this is above his level. Still, peers Auger-Aliassime (also 19) and Shapovalov (20) thought he was the trickier player on the court.

Shapo
Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime and captain Fuorivia talk to Tennis Channel after sweeping Greece on Day 1 of the ATP Cup. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

“I mean, for me like for his ranking he had a good serve, to be honest. It was not so hard, but precise. Better (touch) than his partner, that’s maybe the similarities,” Auger-Aliassime said after being asked to compare the games of the Greek brothers.

“I was impressed. I think he was definitely the better doubles player on the court and he was doing a good job covering the net, he was a bit more tricky to play against,” Shapovalov said.

Next up: Australia

Shapo

Canada’s next challenge comes Sunday – again at 10 a.m., which is 7 p.m. Saturday night on the east coast in Canada, and 4 p.m. on the west coast.

And this time, they might not be the heavy favorites.

Canada will play Australia, which essentially is the home team in this country vs. country competition.

Australia has the dangerous Nick Kyrgios at No. 2 singles, with the higher-ranked Alex de Minaur at No. 1.

Kyrgios was both humbled and inspired Friday night, as he aced to raise funds for the victims of the bush fires that have been particularly devastating on his hometown of Canberra.

Kyrgios vs. Auger-Aliassime would be a rematch of their dramatic, somewhat contentious, marathon at the Queen’s Club tournament last summer.

A pictorial: FAA v NK

 

Team Canada opens up against Greece in Brisbane

BRISBANE, Australia – The ATP Cup opens Friday in Brisbane with a delectable young guns encounter between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov.

But first, a match that is more indicative of what many of the country versus country battles will look like.

Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime, age 19 and ranked No. 21, takes on Michail Pervolarakis, ranked No. 487 at age 23.

It’s a major mismatch on paper. But you never know what will happen on the court – especially as it’s the first match of the season for Auger-Aliassime.

The Canadian No. 2 has played just once since early October, when he came on in the final of the Davis Cup in Madrid and lost to Roberto Bautista-Agut of Spain.

Here’s what Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime looked like early this morning, when they warmed up on the stadium court.

Elsewhere on the grounds, teammates Peter Polansky and Steven Diez hit together, and doubles specialist Adil Shamasdin also had a hit.

Mismatch coming?

Here’s the scoreboard test the tournament had up all afternoon on Thursday.

We’ll see if that turns out to be prescient.

Greece

ATP Rankings Report – Sept. 23, 2019

No changes in the top 10, as only Russians Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov were in action in an actual tournament.

Medvedev continued his furious run from the North American hard-court summer right into the fall, as he wins in St. Petersburg.

He doesn’t move up in the rankings, but he puts more separation between himself at No. 4, and Dominic Thiem at No. 5.

Thiem, who won St. Petersburg last year but chose Laver Cup instead, drops 160 points.

Novak Djokovic was idle, but reports have him back on the practice court, three weeks after his shoulder let him down at the US Open.

Nadal, Federer, Thiem, Zverev and Tsitsipas played Laver Cup. No. 8 Kei Nishikori is still injured and will miss the Asian swing.

And Roberto Bautista Agut, at No. 10, spent the week as a sub in Geneva.

ON THE UPSWING

Borna Coric (CRO): No. 15 ============> No. 14 (The Croat is back on a winning track by making the final in Russia).

Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN): No. 21 ============> No. 20 (Idle last week, the Canadian is back in the top 20 after Wawrinka drops 10 points below him. He’s the No. 2 seed in Chengdu this week, on a mission to win that first Tour title).

Andrey Rublev (RUS): No. 38 ============> No. 36 (Ran into the buzzsaw Medvedev in the St. Petersburg quarters).

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA): No. 61 ============> No. 39 (Tsonga is on a mission. Challenger last week. Title in Metz this week. And another Challenger next week).

Aljaz Bedene (SLO): No. 76 ============> No. 64 (The Metz finalist makes a jump).

John Millman (AUS): No. 94 ============> No. 79 (Good ride on the Challenger circuit in Taipei, as he wins the title).

Grégoire Barrere (FRA): No. 98 ============> No. 89 (Another career high for the 25-year-old Frenchman, who reached the Metz quarterfinals).

Egor Gerasimov (BLR): No. 119 ============> No. 98 (Into the top 100 and a career high after qualifying and reaching the St. Petersburg semis. The 26-year-old has a special exempt into Chengdu this week).

Steven Diez (CAN): No. 172 ============> No. 160 (The Spanish-Canadian, 28, reaches a career high after making the semifinals at the Kaohsiung Challenger).

ranking
Polansky wins in Columbus – and will team up with this fellow, Tommy Paul, for doubles next week in Tiburon.

Peter Polansky (CAN): No. 200 ============> No. 167 (After a season of backsliding, the 31-year-old Canadian gets back in the winner’s circle with a title at the Columbus Challenger).

Danilo Petrovic (SRB): No. 259 ============> No. 194 (The 6-foot-8 Serb, down as low as No. 338 in May, won the Sibiu Challenger, and jumps into the top 200 for the first time at age 27). 

J.J. Wolf (USA): No. 285 ============> No. 247 (A career high for the 20-year-old after making the Columbus final. He was the No. 1 U.S. college player last spring, out of Ohio State, before turning pro this summer).

ON THE DOWNSWING

Stan Wawrinka (SUI): No. 19 ============> No. 21 (Wawrinka bypassed Laver Cup in his little part of the world to play St. Petersburg (yes, it was about the money). But he ended up pulling out of that as he needed more down time after the US Open).

Gilles Simon (FRA): No. 37 ============> No. 49 (Last year’s Metz champ loses in the second round).

Ricardas Berankis (LTU): No. 63 ============> No. 70 (He gets Shapovalov in Chengdu, after a long trip from St. Petersburg).

Martin Klizan (SVK): No. 90 ============> No. 121 (Last year’s finalist – he defeated Wawrinka and Shapovalov – lost in the first round in St. Petersburg).

Matthias Bachinger (GER): No. 126 ============> No. 182 (Ouch. The 32-year-old German went from the qualies to the final in Metz a year ago. Last week, he lost in the qualifying). 

ranking
It’s been a tough year for Mmoh, who falls outside the top 200. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Michael Mmoh (USA): No. 168 ============> No. 208 (Injuries have kicked the 21-year-old’s behind this season, and he falls out of the top 200. A year ago, he had just jumped into the top 100 and a career high).

Duckhee Lee (KOR): No. 216 ============> No. 252 (The 21-year-old from Korea, who is deaf, reached No. 110 back in April, 2017. While he broke through to win his first career ATP Tour match last month in Winston-Salem (sacrificing the US Open qualies to do it), he drops after not defending his semifinal effort in Kaohsiung). 

(For the full rankings picture, including the road to London and the road to Milan, click here).

Finally, Felix: Auger-Aliassime makes D.C. debut

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The downside of a 48-player draw with byes to the 16 seeds is that the tournament really doesn’t get going until Wednesday.

And then, if you have ambitions to win it, you have to play five matches in five days – in the heat and humidity.

As well, you have to hope that the weather is going to hold up.

For the last five days, it’s been sunny (if hot and humid). But the next few days at the Citi Open look to be one big “potential for a big-time thunderstorm to hit” forecast.

And so Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 9 seed, finally took the court Wednesday against big-serving Reilly Opelka, after arriving before the weekend.

The two are meeting for the first time ever.

There were practices, including with Frances Tiafoe on the stadium court. And tournament obligations. But basically, a lot of waiting.

Auger-Aliassime’s last big practice came Tuesday, when he hit with Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.

Berankis, generously listed at 5-foot-9, is not the guy you want to try to simulate the trajectory and power on the serve that you’re going to get from the 6-foot-11 Opelka. 

“I want to try to get a point off you”

Earlier in the week, Auger-Aliassime met with some local players as part of his obligations to the tournament and the ATP.

And when it was all said and done, one brave man went up to him and issued him a challenge.

Well, it was more of a challenge to himself – to try to win a point off the Canadian.

Good sport as he is, Auger-Aliassime smiled wide, and sprinted back to the baseline to give the guy an opportunity of a lifetime.

He gave him a few chances. But, not too surprisingly, it doesn’t go that well for the guy. But he deserves major props for asking.

Low-key in D.C. for FAA (video)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a week, one of those watershed “firsts” in Félix Auger-Aliassime’s young career will occur.

The 18-year-old will celebrate his 19th at the Rogers Cup, which not only is a Masters 1000 event, but is held in his hometown of Montreal.

To prepare for that tournament by getting some match play on the hard courts, and to keep things on the down low before all the attention he’ll get at home, Auger-Aliassime is at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. this week.

That’s not the only reason, of course. The Citi Open is an ATP 500 event, which offers plenty of ranking points (and prize money).

The young Canadian spent about 10 days in Montreal training after taking a post-Wimbledon break.

On Saturday, he had a practice in the heat of the day, then took to the stadium court at 8 p.m. for a practice that was still going strong when your Tennis.Life chronicler left just after 9:30 p.m.

Peas in a pod

Auger-Aliassime hit with Frances Tiafoe, who is experiencing the same type of thing this week in D.C. Tiafoe is a local. But the advantage he has is that this isn’t his first Citi Open rodeo.

And, of course, there’s Coco Mania, which is sucking up all the early air before the big event begins.

Here they are on court. Auger-Aliassime’s fellow Montrealer Genie Bouchard had the 7-8 p.m. slot just before them, so the two city-twins did run into each other.

 

Canadians prep for “Canada Day” to open Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON – On the final day of Wimbledon prep, the training centre at adjacent Aorangi Park was lousy with Canadians.

At 1 p.m., Vasek Pospisil practiced with Belgian Ruben Bemelmans, and Genie Bouchard hit with American Madison Brengle, a former charge of Canadian Fed Cup captain Heidi el Tabakh, who is acting as coach this week.

With about 20 minutes left in that hour session, more Canadians took to the new warmup area that contained the girders for the No. 1 Court last year, and had practice courts No. 1 and No. 2 for years before that.

There, Brayden Schnur, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic warmed up for their 2 p.m. practice sessions.

Shapovalov and Raonic actually practiced together. And right next to them, Auger-Aliassime hit with American Frances Tiafoe.

There were friendly exchanges between Auger-Aliassime’s mother Marie Auger and Raonic’s parents and girlfriend.

Even Erin Routliffe, the New Zealand-born Canadian who moved to Canada at a young age, was on site. Routliffe is an alternate in the women’s doubles draw, with the doubles qualifying having been eliminated this year.

Here’s what it looked like. All that was missing were a few maple leafs sprinkled about the courts.

Say a Canadian “Hiya” to Rog

The next two on Raonic and Shapovalov’s court were … Roger Federer and his old pal Tomas Berdych.

So that got the Canadians a couple of hellos from the man himself.

Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil will square off in an all-Canadian battle – on Canada Day, no less – that should start about 7:30 a.m. EDT.

Raonic will follow on the same Court 12.

Schnur (against Marcos Baghdatis), Shapovalov (against Ricardas Berankis) and Bouchard (against Tamara Zidansek) will play Tuesday.

Age vs. experience as FAA meets F-Lo

LONDON – It’s been a packed two days for Félix Auger-Aliassime.

But he passed those tests with flying colors.

And on Saturday, the 18-year-old Canadian will meet a player twice his age, wild card Feliciano Lopez, in the Queen’s Club semifinals.

It’s been more than 40 years since there’s been a bigger age gap between semifinalists on the ATP Tour.

Auger-Aliassime beat two high-quality opponents Thursday, as he finally got on court after two days of rain.

First there was 2014 Queen’s Club champion Grigor Dimitrov, in straight sets.

Then came Nick Kyrgios, in a dramatic match that had everything – good and not-so-good – that you could ask for.

Auger-Aliassime respects Kyrgios the player. The person? Not his cup of tea

And on Friday, he upset No. 1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-2.

“Maybe it’s the intensity I bring, how hard I hit the ball. When I manage to hit the ball heavy, he has trouble. We’re very different players than we were in juniors. Each time, from the first time, I was able to play well against him,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“The first time was in Repentigny in juniors – and from Repentigny to Queen’s a lot of things have changed. But even still, there’s a little psychological advantage. Against him, I believe even more in my chances to win. Sometimes it’s not specific, but little points of reference on certain points, memories of certain important moments, important points now that we’ve played five times.”

Pumped for the doubles

And then he went out to the very small Court 2 to finally play his first-round doubles match.

The winner of Auger-Aliassime and de Minaur vs. Ken Skupski and Dan Evans would have to play another doubles match late in the day against Lopez and Andy Murray.

(Daylight ran out on that one at the end of the second set).

Still, Auger-Aliassime was all guns blazing – and maybe even more pumped than he was during the singles in a 6-3, 7-5 defeat.

“I blamed myself a few times. You have a partner, and you want to play well for him. Plus we had chances in the second set to win.  Too bad, maybe we would have had a chance to play again,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“But I’m not going to be too hard on myself, because I’m in the singles semis; I have other things I can concentrate on. But it was a pleasure to play with Alex, he’s a very good person and a very good friend. And it was fun to do something different on the court. I hadn’t played doubles for a long time.”

Big age difference

According to the ATP, the age difference between Auger-Aliassime (18 years, 10 months) and Lopez (37 years, nine months) is the biggest since … 1977.

There, 43-year-old Ken Rosewall played Belgian-born American Pat Dupre, just 23, in the semifinal of a tournament in Hong Kong.

In that instance, the grizzled veteran took the match.

“I think he’s going to be one of the best players in the future, so I’m really looking forward to the match,” Lopez said of the first career encounter with Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime respects Kyrgios the player. The person? Not his cup of tea

LONDON – Félix Auger-Aliassime had a pretty full day Thursday, when he finally made his Queen’s Club debut.

A first-round match against 2014 champion Grigor Dimitrov wasn’t simple, but he got through in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

And then, he faced Nick Kyrgios, who had defeated lucky loser Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in his own delayed first-round match.

The first meeting between the 24-year-old Aussie and the 18-year-old Canadian pretty much had everything – and then some, as we’ll show in a photo essay later.

But most of all, it featured a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 7-5 win by Auger-Aliassime.

The Canadian will will play No. 1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Kyrgios hurt his hip/adductor area after a spill on the second point of the third set. But if he’d played lights out until then, the final set was mostly a matter of Kyrgios trying to hold serve, slapping at a few on Auger-Aliassime’s service games, and hoping for a tiebreaker.

In the end, the Canadian was able to break him for the first time in the final game.

After which, Kyrgios decided to chuck his racket – right over the few rows of stands and out onto a concourse.

Few were impressed. Auger-Aliassime can be included amongst that group.

Here he is talking about what a complicated match it is against Kyrgios and how while he respects the player, he’s not a huge fan of the man.

(The interview, conducted in French for RDS, is on the RDS website – we’ve subtitled it here).

Generally, the players have a “boys will be boys” attitude about Kyrgios’s antics. Many of them like him off the court, and as we know, men tend to be somewhat more forgiving of other men’s flaws.

It’s impressive that Auger-Aliassime, at his age, has such a strong sense of himself. And of what he thinks is right and wrong, what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  And that he’s not afraid to speak on it.

A pictorial: FAA v NK

LONDON – There was a bit of everything in the astonishing match between Félix Auger-Aliassime and Nick Kyrgios Thursday.

There even was Kyrgios doing fake free-throws the length of the court with tennis balls. They arrived at the ball girls on one bounce. 

His aim couldn’t have been better if he’d run over and placed the ball tehre.

And for a couple of sets, the Aussie was all in. He was playing great tennis and giving Auger-Aliassime no rhythm as the Canadian teenager just tried to hang in there.

It turned on the second point of the third set, when Kyrgios had a bad slip and fall.

It appeared (at least from the rather intimate-looking massages he got on back-to-back changeovers), to be his adductor.

After that, Kyrgios basically as playing for a breaker. His serve velocity was way down, but he didn’t put up much of a fight in Auger-Aliassime’s service games.

Here are some of the highlights.

All along, Kyrgios was chuntering. A courtside experience for a Kyrgios match is exponentially better than listening to television commentary.

“I can’t split-step right now. I could barely return his serve before. And now, what hope do I have?” – Kyrgios, to himself.

He wasn’t happy with the line calls, although he had a better sense of humor about it Thursday than he did during his first-round match.

Kyrgios to Keothavong: “What that the latest call you’ve ever heard?”
Keothavong: “It was a late one, yes.”

Intimate court, near the action

The fans in the corner to the umpire’s left, on the deuce side, had to scatter often when the two players served wide (you might well have caught your Tennis.Life correspondent on the streams as a few of them went in my direction, too).

At one point – 4-4 in the third set – a woman got hit with one .

It was on the bounce – of course. She was a little rattled. And so she threw the ball back onto the court before Kyrgios’s second serve.

“Smart. Very smart,” said Kyrgios, who didn’t think it was too smart.
“I’m SORRY!” replied the woman, who wasn’t that sorry.

There were some special guests to watch this one.

A sleepy-looking Tommy Paul (either he’d just had a nap, or he needed one. But he did have a Tootsie Roll supply). Frances Tiafoe, a good friend of Kyrgios’s, was there with his girlfriend Ayan Broomfield (who plays tennis at UCLA and, as it happens, is Canadian).

Thanasi Kokkinakis also arrived.

Racket toss could have been dangerous

In the end, the racket that Kyrgios tossed up after the loss didn’t appear as though it was going to fly too far – and then, suddenly, it flew right over the stands and onto a concourse.

We went out there to interview witnesses, as it were. And the stewards were saying they were pretty shocked to look up and see a racket flying through the air.

They thought it might have come from the stadium court behind them. Luckily, no one was hit by it. But the stewards pointed out that had it been 20 minutes earlier, that concourse was absolutely packed with people.

The tournament supervisor and tournament director were out investigating after that Nick Kyrgios racket went flying out of Court 1. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

At this point, of course, everyone who had a ticket was crammed into the stadium court to watch Andy Murray’s return to competitive tennis.

For the first time, FAA and Kyrgios meet

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

Kyrgios

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
Four summers ago, 15-year-old Auger-Aliassime and his friend Nicaise Muamba were cracking up at Nick Kyrgios’s antics on the practice court in Montreal. Thursday, they meet for the first time. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

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.