Tennis Prose



Why Is Felix Fizzling?

The youngest man in the ATP top 25 rankings, Felix Auger-Aliassime is considered a major superstar prospect and he’s poised in position for the big breakthrough in a Grand Slam where he establishes himself as a dangerous force and contender.

But so far his ATP career, which began with a flourish with a win at an ATP Challenger at age 14, has been both sweet and bittersweet.

He has already scored impressive wins over the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Denis Shapovalov, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gilles Simon, and Andy Murray, amongst others. He has reached the finals in seven ATP singles tournaments and he is the youngest player in the top 25.

But the disappointments are a concern. Felix has lost all seven of his ATP finals, all in straight sets. He has yet to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. His ranking has been stagnated around 20 for almost two years.

And there is another sign the progress of Felix has stagnated – after dominating Tsitsipas through three matches in ITF juniors and their first two ATP meetings, the Greek world no. 5 has now won the last three matches vs. Felix, most recently this week in Acapulco.

Felix faltering the mental, physical and tactical edge to Tsitsipas is a clear sign that his game and strategic sense is not improving at the rate of Tsitsipas. And in race car driving terms, Felix’s car has been passed by Tsitsipas. And you have to wonder why has this happened?

The first scapegoat that should be scrutinized is the coach of Felix, who is Frederic Fontang, the former journeyman French player who won a title in Palermo and one match in his career at Roland Garros.

Fontang, who achieved a career high ranking of 59, has coached Felix since January 2017 and he’s also coached Jeremy Chardy (for 12 years), Caroline Garcia and he guided Vasek Pospisil for four years from 140 in the rankings to 25. He’s a successful professional tennis coach, no doubt, but is the right man with the sufficient experience, to direct Felix to the top five, where we know he belongs?

The scouting reports about Felix are that his second serve under pressure is a vulnerability (two costly doubles faults in the third set of the Tsitsipas match in Acapulco doomed him), and his baseline game is predictable though he has shown flashes of exceptional hands and volley skills.

Of all the #NEXTGEN stars, one ATP player who has hit with them all stated that Felix is the heaviest hitter from the baseline.

So with all the positives about Felix and his remarkable career so far, you have to wonder if the fizzle would become an explosion if a new super coach such as Marat Safin, Pete Sampras, James Blake, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl or Franco Davin was hired to maximize the potential and progression of Felix Auger-Aliassime?

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