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Felix's big chance

Felix’s big chance

Paris | In the face of Spaniard Rafael Nadal, on Sunday morning at Roland Garros, Felix Auger-Aliassime will enter Court Philippe Chatrier with “the idea of ​​facing the tennis ball, not the list of prizes”, as confirmed by his coach Frederic Fontang. .

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“At times like this he has been training since he was young. It’s playing on the big pitches, against the best players”, adds the Frenchman.

On Saturday, Quebec trained for an hour and 15 minutes on Court 12 against a left-handed opponent, in preparation for one of the biggest tests of his career.

Because Nadal in Paris 13 titles and 108 wins against three defeats. And these three setbacks, came from the racket of only two players: the sudden Swede Robin Soderling, in 2009, and then the world number one, Novak Djokovic, in 2015 and last year.

“There is no secret about beating Nadal at Roland Garros. Otherwise, he would not have won 13 times,” the ninth seed smiled on Friday.

No secrets, no. And as Fontang explained on Saturday, Nadal or not, Auger-Aliassime always plays the same parts of his game, with the exception of two or three sides he adapts to depending on his next opponent.

No inspiration from Nadal

Nor will the revelation come from Toni Nadal, Felix’s advisor and Rafa’s uncle.

Taunton was present at the court along with his new stepson, with whom he has been working for a year now. But on Sunday, in this Round of 16 match, around 9:30 a.m. Quebec time, Toni Nadal will sit on neutral ground.

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This question has intrigued Roland-Garros since the table was unveiled. Because even if he doesn’t want to get to know her, Uncle Nadal, who led his nephew to win his titles at the Porte d’Auteuil, is a star in Paris.

Again on Saturday, he hit autographs and “selfies” as he left the training ground. The interviews are also in French.

“I will play this match as a spectator,” he said. No, I wouldn’t advise Felix to hit him. I will not give tricks to defeat someone I consider my son. »

If he considered Quebec an “excellent student”, he had made him aware of this unwritten law from the very beginning of their union.

“We must go on”

Whether or not Felix makes the feat today on the clay of Paris, he will be able to get close to the rest by telling himself that he has advanced on this surface.

Before the start of the two weeks, Auger-Aliassime had never won a match in the big picture at Roland Garros.

Fontang himself is a former player who had already reached the second round in Paris, and was convinced that it was “a matter of time”, because his player performs so well in yellow.

“And over the matches, his level of play rose. There, we have to keep going.”

battle from the youth a night

He’s not as blatant as fellow countrywoman Felix Auger-Aliassime, but Leila Fernandez will also have a good challenge this morning against American Amanda Anisimova.

Like Quebec, the 27th candidate has been in good shape since the start of the two weeks. From the start, the promising 20-year-old beat former world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan by two sets.

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But Leila is no exception. In order to get her ticket to the Round of 16 on Friday, she beat Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic (14) in three sets of hard work.

Fernandez and Anisimova have already crossed paths this year. She was on hard courts in Indian Wells. Lille, seeded 17th in Paris, went up the slope — saving four match points in the process — to push this match up to three runs.

Anisimova had succumbed to the mischief.

“I know his game, noted the American at a press conference. I have not faced a left-wing player since the start of the tournament. It will be difficult, but I am excited.”

‘It’s unbelievable’

Despite her young age, Anisimova has already achieved impressive results at the Grand Slam. Two years ago, I reached the semi-finals at the Porte d’Auteuil.

A feat that Fernandez underscores, with all her kindness, when questioned about her next match, which will be played at Philippe Chatrier starting at 6am on Sunday, Quebec time.

“I know he’s going to be a tough opponent, Lavalloise lifted. I just have to focus on myself. I remember watching her play and what she’s doing is amazing.”

Forgotten address

At 19, Leila will make her first appearance in the round of 16 in Paris, her third participation.

But she won the title in France among juniors in 2019. A feat the young racket has forgotten.

“To be honest, I lost my mind this year. The early years, when I arrived, helped me get used to it and find my marks on the track,” she noted on Friday.

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“After that, I tried to find my own rhythm, my own way of training, doing things, my own routine. This year, everything is going into place.”

live from paris

There was a crowd of people watching Felix’s training

Few of the French were working during the day at Roland-Garros. There were also spectators, such as the Russian Daniil Medvedev, the world number two.

But at noon, Paris time, the stands of Court 12 were still full to see the Félix Auger-Alisym train. There were over a hundred people in the stands of the small field. Netflix cameras, shooting a tennis documentary of the same genre as the series fight to surviveas well as Amazon Prime sites that broadcast the tournament in the evening.

No, unlike most of the journalists at Roland-Garros, the spectators were not there to see Tony Nadal, the Quebec player’s advisor … although the latter signed many autographs after training, like the owner of his protection.

Champagne in the spotlight at Roland-Garros

Earlier this week, this section addressed the long lines that were forming around the Roland-Garros site, due to large crowds, after two years of pandemic-related restrictions.

But it’s not just the stadiums that have taken the storm. Early Friday evening, when there was a crowd at the exit, many enthusiasts decided to turn to the Moët et Chandon booth, where champagne is sold by the glass (for 16 euros, that’s $ 22).

In this photo, the booth mentioned is at the back, with an orange roof. Yes, behind a lot of people. A little difficult to define.