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Reasons to Believe I Can Win Alcaraz

Written by Richard Pagliaro | @Itenisi_Manje | Saturday, June 1, 2024

Felix Auger-Aliassime faced the biggest champions of the game in the biggest stages in the sport.

Few wrinkle the safe zone quickly Carlos Alcarazbut Auger-Aliassime is ambitious ahead of the fourth round of the French Open.

A resurgent Auger-Aliassime wrapped up a 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win over what appeared to be a match. Ben Shelton setting up a fourth round blockbuster vs. Wimbledon winner Alcaraz.

It's a conflict that Auger-Aliassime calls “as big a challenge as it gets.”

Still, the Canadian knows what it takes to meet the moment.

Madrid finalist Auger-Aliassime has won nine of his last 11 matches and is one of the few players on a winning streak against Alcaraz. He has won three of their five meetings, including their one Grand Slam clash at the 2021 US Open.

Auger-Aliassime aims for resentment fueled by the belief in his good nature.

“In terms of the challenge, yes, it's the first time we've played on clay, so that's different,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I hit him in the house. He beat me twice in Indian Wells. So the conditions are very different now.

“It's the first time since the US Open last time when he was only 18 that we played in a Grand Slam. All of these things together make it unique, but frankly, it's as challenging as it gets. He plays one of the best players in the world. So it's always a special game against him or Novak or Jannik.

“But I'm feeling better and better and I feel like I believe more in my game and what I'm doing. So, yes, I think I have every reason to believe that I can win, but obviously, we know the challenge. It's hard.”

Reducing the service box to the size of a sandbox and drawing clever angles, Alcaraz left the battering Auger-Aliassime looking uncomfortable and frustrated at times when serving in their final meeting.

The pressing Alcaraz overcame Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-3 to enter the Indian Wells round of 16 last March. In that match, Alcaraz won with 46 percent of the points played against Auger-Aliassime first worship converted four of seven break points and further punished the former world No. 6 in the early exchanges.

In the Roland Garros rematch, Auger-Aliassime, who has dropped just four times in three tournaments, knows she must serve first and do damage with the first strike.

“Obviously I'm going out tomorrow playing what I know, doing what I do well,” said Auger-Aliassime. “If I do that, let's see during the game how it goes. Obviously I'm always open to adapting as the game goes on to see what I'm doing right or wrong and what he's doing well, and adapt my game and tactics.

“But, yes, I will prepare as I prepare for every game, focus on myself, and let's see what level he brings, see what I can bring. It will be a good game, yes.”

However Toni NadalRafael Nadal's uncle and first coach, is no longer part of Auger-Aliassime's team—he still has his coach, Frederic Fontag, and his father, Sam Aliassime, in his box—he's still in touch with Toni Nadal.

Auger-Aliassime said that among the lessons she learned working with Uncle Toni, there are three she often reflects on:

*Unwavering commitment to development
*Facing difficulties with humility
*Discipline to perform the daily work required of high-level professionals.

“I like his philosophy, the way he does the work he went through with Rafa. We can learn a lot from what he says,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I like to go out and listen to what he has to say and try to get as much information as I can from him.

“I like the way he wants a high level, consistency, what he has to improve in his game. I like to be humble when I face difficulties, when I make mistakes. It is important to look for yourself to try to reach the highest possible level, to accept and lose, when in reality it is very difficult to bear.”

Photo credit: Mateo Villalba/Getty

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