Roland-Garros: what's wrong with Felix?
PARIS | Nine defeats and 108 double faults in 22 games, a less dangerous first serve and no title; the Félix of 2023 is far from being compared to that of 2022, which had obtained four triumphs and won nearly 70% of its matches during the campaign.
Félix Auger-Aliassime had been sparkling at the end of 2022, winning three consecutive indoor hard-court events (in Florence, Antwerp and Basel) before following it up with a semi-final at the Paris Masters and helping Canada lift the Davis Cup.
All hopes were high for 2023. However, the Montreal native packed up his first game in three events this season. He failed to sign more than two wins in six tournaments. He has lost six times against lower-ranked players.
Not very glorious for an athlete who experts see as a possible world number one and a Grand Slam champion. < /p>
But what's wrong?
“There may be accumulated fatigue, but it should be behind him by the month of May”, believes Sylvain Bruneau, of Tennis Canada.
He prefers to remain optimistic and recall that Auger-Aliassime lost twice against Daniil Medvedev and once against Carlos Alcarez, in the quarters or in the semi-finals. He also did well in Indian Wells in March, with a win against Tommy Paul, a world top 20.
“But for sure, with what [what] he got us used to in the end year, it's less interesting right now,” admits Bruneau.
Lack of instinct?
Former players, including Belgium's Justine Henin, mentioned that Auger-Aliassime lacked “instinct” to surprise opponents, consistency and that his backhand was a “weakness”.
Bruneau has wanted to qualify a little.
“Félix has great weapons with his serve and his forehand. He is very strong in the first pitch. Is his backhand level with his forehand? Probably not”, he analyzes.
“Can he still continue to evolve, at 22, develop his return of service, his backhand in certain phases of the game, especially in counter-attack or return of service? Yes! We saw [Rafael] Nadal and [Roger] Federer continue to improve well into their thirties. Félix can perfect his game,” continues the seasoned coach.
According to Bruneau, the best is yet to come for the 10th in the world. You have to be patient, especially as the competition is fierce. Youngsters like Alcaraz (1st), Holger Rune (6th) and Jannik Sinner (8th), aged 20 and 21, have overtaken the darling of Quebec in the ATP rankings.
“You don't necessarily have to think he's going to win all the tournaments!” emphasizes Bureau, who is not ringing the alarm bell.
A shoulder in poor condition
What seems to be worrying Félix at the moment is is his health. And for good reason. He was due to arrive in Paris on Friday, not to train on the clay courts of Roland-Garros, but to meet doctors to find the best treatments for the second Grand Slam of the season.
The day before, “FAA” had withdrawn from its quarter-final in Lyon due to a problem with its right shoulder. Something to worry about, three days from a major. But it is precisely in order to preserve himself that he chose to end his career.
“I had been feeling pain in my shoulder since Monday, but I thought it was nothing at all and that with treatment it was getting better and better,” Auger-Aliassime told reporters in Lyon. I was able to play [Wednesday]. Even in the second set, I managed to serve, but in the forehand, I felt discomfort.”
Then, the next day, during the morning warm-up, the feeling was more intense.
“It seemed pretty logical to me to stop there,” he wisely explained, pointing out that there is inflammation near his collarbone. “[…] Even when I turn backhand, I feel it.”
Frustration and disappointment
The last few weeks have not been easy for Félix. His left knee played a nasty trick on him and he had to give up the Monte Carlo and Barcelona tournaments in April.
“It's a bit of a difficult time. I was starting to feel better on the court. The knee pain goes away and all of a sudden I have this in my shoulder. Right now, I'm a little disappointed, a little frustrated with what's going on,” he added.
“FAA” is trying to stay positive in the circumstances, he who hasn't not often been injured in his career. The last time (before Lyon) that he withdrew from a tournament was at Roland-Garros, in 2019.
“I have been healthy for three years. This year, it's a little more complicated. I will try to settle this as soon as possible and get back on the right track.
The first matches of the initial round at Roland-Garros will take place on Sunday. The 10th favorite at the French Open, however, hopes that he will only face the Italian Fabio Fognini, 103rd in the world, on Monday or Tuesday.
Some figures from Félix Auger-Aliassime
During the 2022 season:
Record of 60 wins and 27 losses
4 titles (Basel, Antwerp, Florence and Rotterdam)
Triumph with Canada at the Davis Cup
$4.107 million in purses
278 double faults
1st serve successful at 65%
So far in 2023
Record of 13 wins and 9 losses
$716,000 in purses
108 double faults
1st successful service at 58%