Felix Auger-Aliassime looks up at the sky in relief.

Photo : ATP

Here’s a nice example of 1) bliss and satisfaction and 2) huge relief.  

It seems the Helvetian air does wonders for Félix Auger-Aliassime.  

Switzerland is where he won his first title of 2023 and successfully completed his first title defence. Most importantly, it’s where he put a stop to the spiral of injuries and failing confidence that caused his ranking to dip. Six months during which he lost 13 of 16 matches and bowed out in the opening round of 9 of 12 tournaments.  

At the close of an uplifting week, the 23-year-old defeated No. 11 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland to raise his second straight winner’s trophy at the Swiss Indoors Basel (7-6(3), 7-6(5)).  

Photo : AFP 

It’s true that his last two opponents, namely No. 6 Holger Rune and Hurkacz, weren’t at the top of their games. And it’s also true that No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, No. 4 Jannik Sinner, No. 5 Andrey Rublev, No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 9 Alexander Zverev were battling it out in Vienna while the top two, Djokovic and Alcaraz, were taking some time off.  

Regardless, for the first time in 12 months, Félix lined up five wins. To him, that means he’s still in it. 

Photo : AFP 

So is he back?  

It’s a question he was initially asked after his hard-fought quarterfinal win over Alexander Shevchenko. 

He responded cautiously, humbly pointing out that it had been a tough year and he was hoping to see some light at the end of the tunnel. When the same reporter asked him the same question after the final, he smiled as wide as the St. Jakobshalle and said “I’m definitely back!” 

“I let my racquet talk,” he explained. “That’s always been the motto of my career. I had the conviction that I can be a top player since I’m a kid, but there were many doubts this year about my performances but I’m happy that I could prove to everybody that I still belong among the best players of the world and that I can play at this level. I never doubted, but it’s good to confirm it on the court.” 

“It’s been a tricky year, but this title feels extra special. Even more than last year. I think, with my first title, this is the sweetest for sure.” 

Photo : Reuters 

Aside from the wins and the crown, what stands out the most from Félix’s campaign is the same confidence that paved the way for his success in 2022. A forehand that’s as reliable and powerful as ever, consistency in long rallies and a stable and efficient serve. And let’s not forget one of his most essential and potent weapons: the drop shot. Finally, some may say. It’s a tactic he’s rediscovering to bring another dimension to his game, which had become too predictable and monotonous.  

Just like he did when he embarked on his winning streak in 2022.  

This new title and the points that come with it are enough to keep him in the Top 20, at No.19. If he wants to stay there, he’ll have to go as far as the final four at the Paris Masters 1000.   

Photo : Getty 

We’re just about to call it a season, but Félix won’t be celebrating it in the Top 10 like he did last year. He won’t be among the dominant eight at the ATP Finals in Turin either. But he can still capitalize on the Rolex Paris Masters and Davis Cup Finals to prove he really is back. That his knee injury and the slump that arose from it are things of the past. That he could be back in the Top 10 and maybe even the Top 5 in 2024.  

He’s definitely got the talent to make it happen. 

And Bianca? And Denis? And the rest of our Canadians?  

Photo : Alberto Pezzali/CP 

Félix wasn’t the only Canadian who had a rough year on the courts.  

Just ask Denis Shapovalov, who’ll likely be booted out of the Top 100 within the next two weeks. He’s still nursing a knee injury that’s proving to be much more serious than his buddy Félix’s. 

Denis hasn’t competed since his loss to Roman Safiullin at Wimbledon on July 9. He was ranked No. 23 back then and No. 93 on October 30.  

There haven’t been any updates on his recovery or eventual return. The most recent glimmer of hope came in September, when he traveled to Bologna with Canada’s Davis Cup squad. 

Photo : Massimo Paolone/AP 

While he clearly wasn’t ready to help the team on court, he was an exemplary teammate, supporting Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil from the sidelines. 

Shapovalov won’t be at the Davis Cup Finals, which take place in Malaga, Spain, from November 21 to 26, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be rooting for Félix, Vasek, Milos, Gabriel, Alexis and Captain Frank Dancevic as they defend the title they took home 12 months ago. 

Photo : Pascal Ratthé/Tennis Canada 

In the WTA, Bianca Andreescu had to put her season on pause due to a back injury a month after Denis Shapovalov, after she fell to Camila Giorgi in Montréal.  

Though she was hopeful after the match, she confirmed the extent of the problem when she bowed out of Cincy and NYC. There haven’t been any updates since late August. 

But the other Canadians have more encouraging news. 

Photo : Handout/ArcK 

Despite her roller-coaster of a season, Leylah Fernandez seems to have reconnected with the confidence she had when she took the world by storm in 2021.  

With a 36–24 record in 2023 (including qualifying matches), she was on an 11-match winning streak in her last 14 matches, including the title in Hong Kong

Currently ranked No.35, she will battle alongside Rebecca Marino, Gabriela Dabrowski, Eugenie Bouchard and Marina Stakusic at Billie Jean King Cup from November 7 to 12. 

And what about the very promising Marina Stakusic

Photo : Sarah-Jade Champagne

She baffled everyone at the National Bank Open in Montréal, where she impressed in both singles and doubles. She followed that up by competing in a string of events that helped her reach a career-high ranking of No.297 in mid-October.  

Over the past two months, she’s won 19 of her last 22 matches and collected three titles, including Toronto (W60) on October 29. 

Photo : Tennis Canada 


Email: privard@tenniscanada.com 

Twitter: @paul6rivard

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