Felix Auger-Aliassime embraces high expectations for National Bank Open

Due to the pandemic, Auger-Aliassime makes his first appearance in Montreal in three years.


Expectations are high for Felix Auger-Aliassime at this year’s National Bank Open, but he accepts the role of local favourite.

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“This is the position I want to be in,” said the Montrealer, who took time out on his 22nd birthday to speak to the media on Sunday. “You get to where I am today gradually. You have to get to work. I’ve been in this position where there were expectations, from when I was 14, 15 and even junior, so this is nothing new for me.”

Due to the pandemic, Auger-Aliassime makes his first appearance in Montreal in three years. He returns at No. 9 in the ATP Tour rankings, and will be the sixth seed at the Masters 1000 event.

“I’m a different player, a different young man too,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I feel much more calm and ready as this tournament approaches. I hope my results will show.”

Doing well in front of hometown fans is important, but while he said he’s not looking too far ahead, this event leads up to the US Open later this month in New York and offers valuable points in the ATP Race, which determines the eight players who will compete at the ATP Finals later this year in Turin.

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Auger-Aliassime is eighth with 2,655 points, but is just 370 points behind fifth-place Daniil Medvedev in the close race.

Auger-Aliassime has a first-round bye and faces a potentially tough battle in the second round on Wednesday when he takes on the winner of a match between qualifier Benoît Paire of France and Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, who lost to Nick Kyrgios in the final of the Citi Open in Washington on Sunday.

The other Canadian with high expectations, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ontario, won’t have to wait that long for his first match. He will begin the afternoon session at IGA Stadium on Monday when he takes on Alex de Minaur of Australia.

These two couldn’t be more evenly matched. De Minaur is ranked No. 21 and Shapovalov is No. 22. De Minaur has a 2-1 lead in head-to-head matches, but each match has gone to three sets.

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Shapovalov has been a top 10 player but his ranking took a nosedive when he lost the points he earned after reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2021. He has struggled to win matches in the last three months. He has won just once since he reached the quarterfinals in Rome in May, and is 1-7 in that span.

“I’m happy with the way I’ve been playing, but I haven’t been winning games,” Shapovalov said on Sunday. “That happens in tennis.”

Shapovalov’s most recent loss was to JJ Wolf of the US in the first round of the Citi Open.

“It was a long three-set match and I played well, but JJ played well too,” Shapovalov said.

Shapovalov was bothered by a groin injury at Wimbledon but said he didn’t expect it to give him a problem this week.

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The heat and high humidity took a toll on Montrealer Gabriel Diallo, who withdrew from his second-round qualifying match, falling 6-2, 2-1 to Hugo Gaston of France. Diallo, a 20-year-old from the University of Kentucky, defeated Australia’s James Duckworth in the first qualifying round on Saturday.

Gaston was joined in the main draw by fellow Frenchmen Paire, Adrian Mannarino and Arthur Rinderknech, USA’s Marcos Giron, Italy’s Fabio Fognini and Britain’s Jack Draper.

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