Félix Auger-Aliassime is the centre of attention at Rogers Cup
It’s rare to see a first-round doubles match on centre court at a major tennis tournament, but that’s what fans will get Monday at the Rogers Cup.
It’s rare to see a first-round doubles match on centre court at a major tennis tournament, but that’s what fans will get Monday at the Rogers Cup Canadian Open men’s tennis tournament.
It’s not just any doubles match. It is Félix Auger-Aliassime’s first appearance at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, and organizers are expecting Félix fever to infect IGA Stadium as the 18-year-old Montrealer and fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil play the French team of Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin at 3 p.m.
Auger-Aliassime has been marked for stardom for several years, but his rapid rise in the rankings has surprised most people including Auger-Aliassime. Back in March, he set a goal of a top-50 ranking on the ATP Tour. When he plays his first singles match against Pospisil on Tuesday, he’ll check in at a career-high No. 21.
The doubles match Tuesday will serve a dual purpose for Auger-Aliassime. He’ll get an opportunity to test the playing conditions on centre court and he’ll also get a chance to deal with the pressure that comes with being the hometown favourite.
While Auger-Aliassime has become a fan favourite at home, he has also impressed his rivals on the tour.
“I like him; I like his character,” said Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed and defending champion. “He has a lot of talent and he’s passionate about the game. He deserves the success that he’s had and he’s the kind of player I like to see do well.”
Kei Nishikori, the No. 5 seed from Japan, said he was impressed with the strength of Canadian tennis with Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov following Milos Raonic into the elite ranks. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Canada win the Davis Cup in the near future.
That Canadian talent will be front and centre as play begins in the main draw on Monday.
Raonic kicks off the centre-court action at noon when he plays Lucas Pouille of France. When Kevin Anderson withdrew with a knee injury Saturday, Raonic was elevated to one of the 16 seeded positions and moved in the draw. He was originally scheduled to play against American Harry Fritz, and his new opponent could present a tougher challenge. Raonic has a 3-1 record against Pouille, but the Frenchman won their most recent matchup earlier this year at the Australian Open.
The evening session kicks off at 6:30 with Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., playing Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, followed by Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., against Gaël Monfils., the crowd-pleasing 16th seed from France.
Shapovalov, who has lost in the first round of his last four tournaments, is hoping to regain the magic he displayed here two years ago when he upset Nadal en route to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev. Shapovalov took nearly a month off after Wimbledon to clear his head, but he said he felt energized by the return to Montreal.
“I got here Tuesday and as soon as I stepped on the court, I felt good,” said Shapovalov.