Photo : Journal de Montréal
We’ve gotten to know her over the past few years.
She sits in Félix’s box, behind his coaches. She reminds us that before they sold out stadiums, even the most talented athletes were just kids.
Kids with parents who believed in them and set them on their path.
Marie Auger is one of those parents who are largely responsible for their children’s success.
Often spotted in the stands in recent months, she was on hand in Rotterdam when her son secured his very first ATP title. When he paid tribute to her in his winner’s speech, she was visibly moved.
She was also front and centre in Paris when the 21-year-old entered the fourth round at Roland-Garros—his fourth such appearance in four Grand Slam events.
The touching photo above was featured in an interview with Marie Auger in Le Journal de Montréal newspaper on May 29, the very day Félix went head-to-head against his idol and the undisputed King of Clay, Rafael Nadal.
The article touched a chord with me, and I wanted to share it with as many fans as possible.
In conversation with journalist Jessica Lapinski, Marie Auger shared insights that are as simple as they are interesting, especially when it comes to what she’s most proud of: “I’m even more pleased when people say Félix is a good person, that he’s smart, because, as a parent, I didn’t raise a tennis player. I was there for a child so he could become an adult who’s comfortable in his own skin.”
Well, mission accomplished.
Not only is Félix the ninth best men’s tennis player in the world, he’s also especially well liked in the sport. Calm and upright, the gentleman in sneakers earned a 2021 US Open Sportsperson Award along with Ashleigh Barty. And that couldn’t make his parents happier.
“It’s always been a family project with his father, even if we’re divorced. When I look at him, that’s really who he is. But as a parent, you can’t take all the credit,” she told the newspaper.
Perhaps, but Mrs. Auger and Mr. Aliassime did a fantastic job as parents. And Félix is living proof of that as he excels on courts around the world day after day. So much credit goes to them.
On the topic of Félix’s fame, his mother admits it can be daunting: “As a parent, you’re never prepared for your child being in the public eye. When I get to a city and see an image of him on the side of a bus, it’s all a bit surreal.”
Even as a kid, Félix was mature. When he was 10 and spending much of his time away from home, he never called his parents to say he missed them. “He’s always been very proud to be independent. Even today, he makes his own career decisions,” Marie Auger said. “He’ll talk to his agent, his coaches, his parents, of course, but he very much makes his own informed choices.”
Félix Auger-Aliassime proves that tennis can be a happy family affair. And he’s not the only one.
All too often, it’s the stories of harassment, control and fraud that make headlines. But Félix, from the professional and personal perspectives, embodies all the wonderful aspects of the positive things his parents did for their son long before he was a superstar.
Kudos to the Auger-Aliassimes.
Leylah Fernandez blazed through week one at Roland-Garros. Reigniting the passion of the fans and media for her fiery style, she quickly earned herself the pretty cool nickname Clay-lah.
When it comes to nicknames, a play on words is always a great way to go. Case in point: Djoker, Fraulein Forehand, Fed Express, Can’t-Miss Swiss, Ice Borg…
Though of somewhat limited use since it applies only eight or nine weeks out of the year, Clay-lah is certainly among the most original.
“I think it’s actually pretty amazing that they came up with Clay-lah, because I have no creativity for that. I wouldn’t think of that nickname,” said Leylah in a presser.
When asked if she had any other nicknames, she replied: “My family do use the nickname Leylannie, using my first and middle name, and they put it together, which I always like. I know that I’m doing things right or I’m, like, being a good kid when they’re calling me Leylannie.”
Her presence in the second week of the Slam came as a relief to many.
After successfully defending her title in Monterrey, she touched down in Paris with a 4-5 record. Not exactly what you’d expect from a US Open finalist.
After three clay tournaments, she’d posted two wins and three losses.
And she hadn’t said her last word. Just like she did in 2019 when she collected the girls’ French Open crown, she’s been doing particularly well on this very particular surface.
And on hallowed ground, no less!
How the mighty have fallen
Tennis great Boris Becker, who was sentenced to prison in early May for trying to hide $2.5 million pounds in assets (over C$4M) to avoid paying his debts, was recently transferred to a prison for foreign criminals. The move hints that he will likely be deported from the UK early next year.
In 37 years, Becker rose from teen phenom to tennis icon and then tumbled to fallen star and the very bottom of the barrel: inmate for the next two and a half years.
That’s a lot of ups and downs in the first half of his life, but it’s a fate that often awaits those who aren’t prepared for fame, fortune and opportunities.
Or those who aren’t well surrounded. Or those who are just plain dumb. Or both.
Boris Becker is still the youngest man to win Wimbledon at just 17 years old. His tennis record, which includes six Grand Slams, is a brilliant one.
He also spent three years coaching Novak Djokovic, who locked down 6 Slams and 14 Masters 1000 titles during Becker’s tenure.
Tennis fame led Becker to all sorts of careers. He co-owned Volkl’s tennis division, he worked as a commentator for the BBC and FoxSports Australia and headed the men’s program for the German Tennis Federation.
But Boris always wanted more, and a career as a professional poker player that brought in $90,000 euros between 2007 and 2013 was a catalyst for his appetite for risk.
Gambling (and gambling debts) and fraud related to sports bets and match fixing have brought down their fair share of tennis players, but none as famous as Boris Becker.
Doping, on the other hand, has trapped tennis stars including Andre Agassi, Martina Hingis, Richard Gasquet, Marin Cilic, Barbora Strycova, Viktor Troicki, Dan Evans and Maria Sharapova.
Incidentally, last March, Maria also got caught up in a $100,000 fraud case along with Michael Schumacher (of all people!) stemming from a failed condo project in Gurugram, India.
It was difficult to hear Arantxa Sanchez Vicario accuse her parents of mismanaging the $60M she earned in her splendid career, causing an irreparable rift between her, her parents and her brothers.
There are certainly enough examples in the wider world of sports, too. Doping alone stripped many athletes of their good name and, in some cases, of their Olympic medals, including track and field stars Ben Johnson and Marion Jones, swimmer Ryan Lochte and cyclists Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis.
In the NFL, quarterback Michael Vick was involved in a dog fighting ring and served 21 months in prison that brought his potentially brilliant career to a halt. Running back Ray Rice was indicted for aggravated assault against his former fiancée.
As for South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, he’s currently serving 13 years for murdering his girlfriend.
They say it’s hard to get to the top and even harder to stay there.
Unfortunately, it seems so easy for some to be knocked off their pedestal when thoughtlessness, greed or lack of judgment short circuits a person’s life work.
Separated at birth, part 3
Let’s wrap things up on a lighter note with another edition of Separated at birth featuring tennis players and their possibly long-lost twins.
It’s tough to find a more striking likeness than the one between Karen Khachanov and actor Liam Hemsworth (actual younger brother of Chris of recent Thor lore).
Fortunately, their sartorial choices make it easy to tell them apart: the tennis pro is wearing his match gear, while his twin sports a very chic tux.
It’s a resemblance that really hits you like a bolt of lightning. A lot like Khachanov’s forehand.
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