Fellow Canadians, rejoice! One of our own will likely be among the exceptional eight at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals this November.  

Another one of our own, that is. Six years after Milos Raonic battled all the way to the semis in London, Félix Auger-Aliassime is getting closer and closer to Turin. He’s currently seventh in the race. 

His 11-5 record since early August and especially the consistency that helped him clinch his second title this year in Florence are cause for celebration. Things aren’t quite set in graphite yet, but the way the Montrealer has been playing could very well get him there.  

Emphasis on the conditionality.  

Photo : Giampiero Sposito/UniCredit Firenze Open 

More than anything, it’s his progress that allows for a certain degree of optimism. 

Progress in his tennis game, of course, and progress in his mental game: ever-increasing confidence and toughness that get him through demanding opponents and interminable rallies. The kind of self-assurance and substance that separate the Top 15 from the Top 3.  

Photo : ATP 

Along with his second title of 2022 and of his career, Félix secured a spot in the Top 10.  

In his impressive final in Florence, Auger-Aliassime collided with a J.J. Wolf who was on fire.   

Over the past year, we’ve all seen how Wolf can get under his opponent’s skin. He hit relentlessly, but Félix kept coming up with answers, punch for punch, and stayed cool and consistent. Some of the rallies were so expeditive that it seemed like the feed was in double time. High-caliber stuff. 

Photo : Giampiero Sposito/UniCredit Firenze Open
Image : TennisTV 

But back to Félix’s ticket to Turin. 

The seventh player is the last to enter the event, since the eighth spot automatically went to Novak Djokovic when he won a Slam (and the certainty he’d end the season in the Top 20).    

That means Auger-Aliassime has to keep his head in the game. He competes in Antwerp this week and then in the indoor ATP 500 in Basel and the Paris Masters.  

If he struggles and Hurkacz, Fritz, Norrie, Carreno Busta, Sinner or Berrettini don’t, any of them could push him out. But if Rublev and Medvedev underperform, their respective sixth and fifth places will be up for grabs.  

Stay tuned for some exciting tennis.  

Match stats, please

Photo : Firenze Open 

Florence’s indoor stadium was the perfect venue for the ATP 250 UniCredit Firenze Open. 

It may have a capacity of only 4,000, but Palazzo Wanny provided plenty of atmosphere for the competitors who went head-to-head on a charcoal court that looked a lot like the one at Laver Cup.  

In their efforts to mark tennis’ return to the breathtaking Italian city after a 28-year absence, tournament organizers seemed to have forgotten the tens of thousands of fans following on TV or online. So many important details were lacking—stats that are provided in most of the other venues around the world. 

See this wide shot? Try to find the screens with all the numbers.  

Don’t strain your eyes: there aren’t any.

Image : Tennis TV

What about serve speed (the most important)?  

The shot clock? 

And match time?  

Nowhere to be found.  

In the Auger-Aliassime vs. Wolf final, I caught a glimpse of the serve clock by mere chance on a change of ends. 

Image : TennisTV 

I could also mention the score, but broadcasters systematically post it at the bottom of the screen so I’ll let that one go.  

As I wrote a few months ago, the information is important for a lot of viewers, just like the number of shots on goal in hockey or timeouts remaining in basketball.  

Of course, sponsors are essential to tennis, but, in my opinion, tournaments shouldn’t forget spectators’ overriding interest: basic facts about the match. 

Fortunately, most keep that in mind.   

Rublev: one to watch 

Photo : ATP Tour

With his win over Sebastian Korda at the Gijon Open in Spain on October 16, Andrey Rublev made it an even dozen ATP titles.

That’s 12 titles in 18 finals in his first 5 years on the Tour. Winning 2 out of 3 finals is pretty impressive.  

With his 25th birthday just a few days away on October 20, he’s probably the most underrated member of the Next Gen—a group created in 2017 in a brilliant marketing coup by the ATP to turn the spotlight on the future headliners in men’s tennis. 

Photo : ATP Tour

A finalist in the first two editions of the Next Generation ATP Finals, Rublev has competed in the shadow of his contemporaries like Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’ve all entered the Top 3.  

The Moscow native has come close (No.5 from November 7 to January 9), and I feel it’s only a matter of time until he finally breaks down the door.   

Adding to his astonishingly powerful shots are his impressive grit and determination. Never irascible or inappropriate, his intensity is part of what makes him a crowd favourite. 

I don’t know if he’ll make it to No.1, but he can certainly aspire to the top spot as the Next Gen fulfill their promise and take their place in the tennis stratosphere. 

But have they already missed their chance? They may have taken too long to reach the top, and lurking just below the surface is a young Spanish shark who can smell the blood in the water.  

Separated at birth (6) 

Since we’re on the topic of Andrey Rublev and since the Separated at birth segment has become a regular feature of this blog, wouldn’t you say there’s a slight resemblance between the Russian ace and actor Willem Dafoe? 

Below are two photos to compare them at roughly the same age: Rublev at 24 and Dafoe at 31, on the heels of his breakout role in the Academy Award-winning film Platoon, in 1986.  

Same cheekbones, same broad smile. 

I’d say they deserve to be in my platoon of people with striking similarities. 

Montage Dafoe Rublev

Email: privard@tenniscanada.com 

Twitter: @paul6rivard 

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