Félix Auger-Aliassime will tell you without hesitation that his fondest Rogers Cup memory is 2013, 3rd round, National Bank Court. Vasek Pospisil versus Tomas Berdych.
For the very first time in his career, Pospisil had overpowered a Top 10 player, secured a semifinal berth and soared 31 places in the rankings to start the next week at World No. 40.
Overcome by emotion, Pospisil crouched down and kissed the court. It was a moment of victory that stayed with a 13-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who was already hoping to have his own chance to experience the same thing.
This afternoon, the Quebecer will try to make his dream a reality on Centre Court at IGA Stadium in his very first first-round match at Rogers Cup against none other than Vasek Pospisil.
One day after teaming up in doubles, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil will go head-to-head for a spot in the second round and an appointment with yet another Canadian, Milos Raonic.
All irony aside, Louis Borfiga, vice-president of high performance and athlete development at Tennis Canada, believes that the doubles match was exactly what both players needed to get their feet wet.
“There’s nothing better than a doubles match to get ready for a singles match the next day because you get a feel for Centre Court and the balls. You practice your serves and returns,” he explained. “It’s less physically demanding and there’s less pressure since you’re mostly out there to have fun and play a good match.”
Though they fell in two sets (7-6 (9), 6-5) to Jérémy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, the Canadians drew a very large crowd for a first-round afternoon doubles showdown. Indeed, fans couldn’t wait to catch their local hero in action. The atmosphere in the stadium was positively electric.
Crowd-favourite Auger-Aliassime is also well-liked on the ATP Tour. In the press, his fellow players have only good words for him. “I have a lot of respect for him outside the court. He’s one of the nicest guys, especially being only eighteen and how respectful he is and everything that he knows already about the sport,” said reigning Rogers Cup champion in Montréal Alexander Zverev on Sunday.
“He has such an endearing personality, and everyone likes him,” affirmed Borfiga. “That’s really a plus for him.” Though Denis Shapovalov won’t be cheering for his good friends because he’ll be battling Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin with his doubles partner Rohan Bopanna, he’ll surely find a way to get an update: “I mean, that’s a popcorn match. That’s going to be a really fun match to watch. I’ll follow. I have to stay somewhat semi-professional, kind of take care of my body, get ready for the singles on Wednesday, but also for the doubles tomorrow. But I’ll try to get a couple of glimpses, even on the changeovers if they’re showing the score.”