A little riddle to start the week. It’s from my mother-in-law.
Posted at 7:45 am
“Can you recognize a rattlesnake?
– Do not you worry. When you meet one, you will know. »
Even after 20 years, it still makes me smile. What is true for rattlesnakes is also true for future tennis champions. When you see one, you know it. Simply.
In the spring of his career, the champions progressed rapidly. 500e. 250e. 100e. 50e. 25e. They grow fast, fast, fast. Sometimes a little crooked. They get lost. They go in for a ride. They must be attached to the tutor. Then one day they hatch. In just a short time.
This is what happened to Leylah Fernandez last summer at the US Open. Quebec had quickly eliminated three of the top five players in the world, as well as a former number one. A few months later, here she is again the fourth finalist of a Grand Slam tournament, with excellent chances of reaching the final. I’ll be back in two minutes.
At the same time, we have been waiting for this great moment of Félix Auger-Aliassime for three years. It’s not that he fights. On the contrary. At 21, he is already in the top 10 in the world. He also participated in 10 finals. Except he lost nine, who has a hard time facing the players of the Top 10 and that he barely plays for .500 on clay. Not surprisingly, expectations for spring, the red clay season, were modest.
The beginnings were disastrous. Auger-Aliassime bowed to opponents far less valued than he. Then in Rome, two weeks ago, he found himself facing the best player in the world, Novak Djokovic. An excellent player on clay. Auger-Aliassime offered him solid opposition in a 5-7, 6-7 defeat. Djokovic was impressed. ” [Félix] improved on clay, the Serb commented this weekend. We did two very tight races in Rome. I was amazed at the accuracy of their service. »
On Sunday, Quebec had a date with another legend. The ocher ogre. The King of Paris. Rafael Nadal. Do you know how many players have won the Spanish at Roland-Garros in all history?
Even lower. Only two: Djokovic (twice) and Robin Söderling. While Auger-Aliassime, before this year, had not won a single game at Roland-Garros. This tells you the difference between the two players.
Auger-Aliassime, however, resisted. Much longer than expected. In fact, he almost won. Until the middle of the fifth round, we believed in it a lot. Felix attacked his opponent relentlessly. Like a hungry panther. And the King was afraid. During a very rare time in his career, in Paris, Nadal found himself in the position of prey, rather than predator. The Spaniard had to make exceptional shots at the end of the game to beat Quebec at the start, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6 and 6-3.
Auger-Aliassime has not defeated any champions in the last two weeks. Except he proved he could face the best players in history on clay. It is already a feat. He also pushed Daniil Medvedev (2e in the world) at the limit, in January, on the Russian-speaking surface of choice in Melbourne. And he eliminated Roger Federer on the pitch last summer at the Halle tournament.
“Felix is getting closer,” his coach Fred Fontang said The team. After his match against Medvedev in Melbourne, against Djokovic in Rome and that one, we can say that it is positive. He creates opportunities. At some point it will happen. »
As is now the case with his young compatriot Fernández. The young quebec (17e) has just eliminated Belinda Bencic (14e) and Amanda Anisimova (27e). Here he is in the quarterfinals. The most encouraging? She is now the top ranked player in her half of the table. A second Grand Slam final in less than 10 months is now just a possibility. It’s a very real probability. If she keeps up the momentum and wins all her matches this week, she could reach number 4 in the world, and match Bianca Andreescu’s Canadian record.
For both Fernandez and Auger-Aliassime, his career has just passed the spring stage. Give way to summer and the most beautiful days.