Felix Auger-Aliassime lost his lone tussle at Laver Cup Boston last year, defeated by his good friend Matteo Berrettini in the longest match in the event’s history at two hours, 52 minutes.
The softly spoken Canadian with the potent serve and groundstrokes to match is bracing for another tough assignment.
Auger-Aliassime and his Team World teammates line up against the so-called Big 4 of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, together with Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, at The O2 Arena this weekend.
“For sure having mainly Novak and Rafa there, who have been two of the most consistent players in the last years and again this year in the Grand Slams, is tough for us,” Auger-Aliassime says.
“Intimidating in a way. On the other hand, you also have Roger and Murray, which is really the elite of tennis in the last almost 20 years.
“I think it’s special for me, personally, a young player coming up, to be up against these four legendary players.”
According to the 22-year-old, Nadal and Djokovic comprise his biggest challenges, yet he would “love” to face Federer in the iconic Swiss’ farewell tournament.
Auger-Aliassime overcame Federer — with whom he shares an August 8 birthday — in three sets in their only duel, on grass in Halle, Germany last year.
“We’ve played once, but to play him in an event like this would be super special as well,” says Auger-Aliassime.
Auger-Aliassime has endured a mixed season. He began in fine form, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January and even holding a match point against eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev.
Thus, Auger-Aliassime had landed in three consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals, one being a semifinal at the 2021 US Open, where Medvedev beat him.
Any disappointment from their Australian Open match dissolved after Auger-Aliassime claimed his maiden ATP title on an indoor hard court — the same setting as the Laver Cup — in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was a career-defining moment after falling short in his first eight ATP Tour singles finals.
Auger-Aliassime severely tested Djokovic on clay in Rome in May and, weeks later, did the same against Nadal at his stronghold of Roland Garros.
He became just the third man, after Djokovic and John Isner, to stretch the Spaniard to a fifth set in Paris.
Toni Nadal, part of the coaching team of ‘FAA,’ was understandably proud, though still rooted for his nephew.
Auger-Aliassime sustained upset losses in the second round and first round at the US Open and Wimbledon, respectively, a season removed from those second-week showings in New York and London last year. He dropped outside the top 10 in the rankings earlier this month, bundled out at Flushing Meadows by the fast-rising Jack Draper.
Then, in keeping with his seesaw 2022, Auger-Aliassime toppled Carlos Alcaraz in Davis Cup action last week for a maiden victory against a world No.1.
The current world No.13 is sure to draw upon his upward momentum when confronting the star-studded Team Europe.
“I had a great time last year, even though the win didn’t go our way,” says Auger-Aliassime. “Special to be part of an elite team of players, an elite competition, with the two captains there.
“And the crowd. The crowd was fantastic in Boston. I think we’re going to have the same, if not better, in London. The O2, as we all know, is a special place to have tennis.”