Rogers Cup: Will Auger-Aliassime shine in the spotlight in Montreal?
Japan’s Kei Nishikori admitted he did not like to play in front of his fans in Tokyo in his early days. The pressure and public attention made the experience difficult for him.
After quick eliminations between 2007 and 2011, Nishikori finally triumphed in his homeland in 2012, defeating Canadian Milos Raonic in the final. The scenario was repeated in 2014, when he defeated Raonic again for the title.
“The pressure was that I could not move as I wanted,” said Nishikori, fifth seeded this week in Montreal. The first three or four years, I did not play good tennis. Subsequently, I got used to the situation. I understood how to stay calm on the ground.
“Now, it’s an experience that I appreciate. I feel a lot of public support at home and now I like to play in Japan. ”
This week at the Rogers Cup, the spotlight will be on Felix Auger-Aliassime, who will be competing in the Montreal tournament for the first time.
Auger-Aliassime, 22nd in the world, said she was surprised by the huge crowd who attended her first training on Friday night.
“It would be a lie to say that it’s a tournament like any other. It’s special, said Auger-Aliassime Saturday. I hope to use the energy and support of the crowd in a positive way. There is certainly a trap in putting too much pressure on the shoulders. ”
Auger-Aliassime will break the ice on Monday in doubles with his compatriot Vasek Pospisil. The two will face each other Tuesday afternoon in a duel of first round in singles.
What can play in Auger-Aliassime’s favor is its maturity. All ATP players polled about the Quebecer over the weekend praised this quality of the young man celebrating his 19th birthday on August 8th.
“I think he’s one of the best in the world at his age and I do not have a lot of advice to give him,” said Nishikori. I think he is well surrounded and that is why he is always focused. At least, that’s what I feel from the outside. ”
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has been eliminated three times in the first round in his home town of Hamburg. However, he reached the semifinals for the second time last month, losing in three sets to Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili. He hopes that Auger-Aliassime will not be stifled by the spotlight this week.
“You feel pressure, but also a positive energy, the love of the crowd towards you,” said Zverev, champion in Montreal in 2017 and third seeded this week. I hope Felix will feel the same way, that he will appreciate the experience instead of feeling negative pressure.
“In Hamburg, it’s a smaller tournament and I was one of the favorites to win. I think Felix could win a major tournament one day, but he’s still not a favorite here. Maybe he will win this tournament several times in the future, but he is only 18 years old. You have to give him some time. ”
The field advantage for Canadians?
In order to help Auger-Aliassime and his countryman Denis Shapovalov a little bit, the tournament director, Eugène Lapierre, said in the draw that IGA Stadium pitches were a bit slower this year.
“I think I was the first to train on the new surface before I left for Washington almost two weeks ago,” said Auger-Aliassime on Saturday. They have adapted the terrain to make it look like Miami. ”
“The speed is a bit slower and the ball bounces higher. It’s perfect for me, Shapovalov had analyzed. I like being able to take my time and go for a big swing. It’s ideal for a player like me. ”
Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov had reached the semi-finals in Miami this spring, while Milos Raonic had reached the third round.
“It allows to settle well, to build the point,” said Auger-Aliassime. The new game is moving towards that. The courts are slower on the circuit. It’s better for the players, the show, the exchanges and the level of play. ”
However, the players polled Sunday were not ready to say that the central court of the IGA stadium was slower than in 2017.
“Maybe the other fields are not so fast, but the center seemed fast,” Zverev said. Maybe it’s because I’m coming from a clay court tournament. ”
“I trained yesterday (Saturday) and it seemed fast,” said Italian Fabio Fognini.
Nishikori, the Russian Karen Khachanov and the Spaniard and favorite Rafael Nadal also found that the central court was rather fast.
SIX CANADIANS IN LICE WILL BE IN ACTION MONDAY
MONTREAL – The six Canadians competing in the men’s Rogers Cup will be in action on the first day of the main draw on Monday.
Toronto’s Steven Diez was hoping to join the Maple Leaf contingent. Diez, however, lost his second qualifier 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) against American Bradley Klahn.
The veteran Milos Raonic, 17th seeded, will open the ball on Monday at the central court of the IGA stadium. Raonic, 20th world racket and finalist in Montreal in 2013, will cross the iron with the French Lucas Pouille. The latter won the last matchup between the two men at the Australian Open after suffering defeat on his first three outings against the powerful Ontario server.
Local favorite Felix Auger-Aliassime will then play his first career game at the Rogers Cup in front of his fans. Auger-Aliassime will team up with his compatriot Vasek Pospisil in a first-round double-header against France’s Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin.
Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil must face each other in singles on Tuesday afternoon.
Denis Shapovalov will have the honor of playing the first match in the evening on the central court on Monday. Back to where his career has taken off, Shapovalov will face Frenchman Pierre-Hughes Herbert.
During his semifinal run in 2017, Shapovalov defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal, before losing to eventual winner Alexander Zverev.
Now 20 years old, Shapovalov ranks 31st in the world. He has lost his last five games, however, and has crossed the first round in only two of his last nine tournaments since losing to Roger Federer in the semifinals in Miami.
Veteran Peter Polansky will finish Monday’s day on center court with a duel against 16th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils.
For his part, Brayden Schnur will play in the second duel on the National Bank court against the American Tommy Paul, which comes from qualifying.