Felix Auger-Aliassime won a three-setter against fellow #NextGenATP star Lorenzo Musetti on Wednesday at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. It was a different type of match for the Canadian, though: Twenty-year-old Auger-Aliassime was the oldest player on the court.
During his rise on the ATP Tour, Felix has always been the young gun. But now the likes of 19-year-old Musetti, 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner and 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz — all of whom are younger — are pushing the World No. 20 and his colleagues to find an even higher level.
“I think I’m in the middle of that group where I have some really good players now a little bit older than me, some younger than me,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But of course I think we motivate each other, we’re pushing each other, not directly, but in a way. I think there’s very high competition and that is what tennis is about.”
The 10th seed was impressed by Musetti, who has played well in recent weeks. The Italian made his first ATP 500 semi-final in Acapulco and advanced to the third round in Miami.
“I feel like I was in his place not so long ago, just two years ago. He’s a great player, he’s already [in the] Top 100. He’s had some great victories last year and also this year in Acapulco,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I’ve been seeing him quite a lot and it was actually the first time I’ve played someone younger than me, so time goes fast.
“It was good for me to compete with a guy like this, who I’m going to play many more times in the future. But I think he has a great game, a great touch and great tennis IQ. I think he will for sure be good in the future.”
Auger-Aliassime is fully focussed on playing seventh seed Denis Shapovalov on Thursday in Barcelona. But in the long term, his top priority is to raise his level.
“I want to improve and that’s the way I’m going to win more matches. I’m going to be able to put myself in a position to win titles,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Of course, I think like every year [my goal] now [is] to win a title, or more than one would be amazing for me.
“I have to keep improving, there’s no other way, because I can want to win all I want. If I’m not playing at a high level, then I don’t deserve it yet in a way. I need to improve and that’s my main goal and my main focus this year.”
The Canadian hopes to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin this year. But he knows there is a lot that goes into achieving those feats.
“It would be a great achievement for me. But I have to see how I can do it,” Auger-Aliassime said. “The main focus, again, is to keep working well, to improve and to fight every match.”