April 19 2022 - Felix Auger-Aliassime 1resize

BARCELONA—Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime battled through unfavorable conditions and a determined local hopeful to win his opener Wednesday at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, setting a third-round showdown with Frances Tiafoe following a 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory over qualifier Carlos Taberner.

Afterwards, Baseline caught up with the world No. 9 to learn more about his approach to colder temperatures, training for clay and trading football tricks with one Carlos Alcaraz.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun day of weather out there. When it’s colder and drizzling, how do you ensure not allowing circumstances beyond your control get into your head?

FAA: Well, it's the same conditions for my opponent. So I always keep that in mind, that he's also going to struggle. And it's about who is gonna find a way to still find his best game, find solutions to play well, to overcome the conditions. In the end, it was okay. There was a bit of rain with the stops. It's never easy or ideal.

The conditions got heavy in the second set with the balls, there were a lot of rallies. And that's never good for my style of play. But I'm proud of the way I fought, the way I dug deep to try to overcome the difficulties I was facing and to get the victory.


When the forecast is uncertain on a match day like today, do you alter anything with your string tension to prepare for the different possibilities?

FAA: Sometimes you can, but myself, I don't play around too much with the tension. For me, it more depends on the balls and the courts—mainly on the balls that we play. Sometimes when it can be heavier, or lighter, I'll switch my tension. Or if we play at altitude, like in Madrid right? But here, no, I keep the same tension regardless of the conditions.

In Barcelona, there are many options to warm up with a comforting plate of food. Is there anything you like to get after a match here, especially on damper days?

FAA: They have, of course, very nice paellas. Everything is good here. The meat is always very good, the ham. But it's also heavy. So I try to keep it light, some fish and rice during the tournament. And maybe at the end, I'll treat myself.

You have the tools to compete as an all-surface player. You practiced with Albert Ramos yesterday. Is targeting clay-court gurus during this part of the year a strategy of consideration when preparing at tournaments?

FAA: Not really, unless my coach has one in mind. He schedules the practices. We play with whoever's available. But it's true lately that I played a lot with Casper Ruud, who is another good clay-court player at the top level. And then there's Ramos, Federico Delbonis; I practiced a little bit with him recently. And it's good because I've made finals on every surface, but my win percentage is not the highest on this surface, [versus] others.

I'm still 21. I can improve a lot and do much better on clay. So it's a process. I play almost every week of the clay season to try to just improve on the surface. And hopefully one day I can show as good as results as I did on other surfaces.

Auger-Aliassime was all smiles Monday when he and Alcaraz delighted onlookers in front of Gaudi's Casa Mila.

Auger-Aliassime was all smiles Monday when he and Alcaraz delighted onlookers in front of Gaudi's Casa Mila.

At the start of the week, you and Carlos Alcaraz shut down the streets in the city center. How important are appearances like that for you as tennis players, to perhaps expose other people to the sport in a different way?

FAA: Yeah, I think it's great. We're lucky that the tournaments put this in place to bring other fans in. Maybe tourists that were just walking around, they see us play, they're curious. And then maybe they remember our name and it goes like that.

So I think it's super important. And I always enjoy taking part in these events to go outside the site of the tournament and go in the city, go to a different spot to attract other fans that maybe don't see us as often. Because at the end, we're some of the best tennis players in the world. And I think it's going to be important in the next few years to bring new fans, younger fans into tennis and really show how interesting and unique our sport can be.

Were you at all nervous trading football skills with Carlos in Barcelona, a renowned football town?

FAA: Yeah, yeah. (laughter) A little bit, actually, because I'm in Barcelona, so I couldn't show up and look horrendous. Carlos being Spanish, I'm sure he played as a kid. He's very skilled. I did play a little bit, but of course it's not our specialty as Canadians. But it went well. We were able to do a couple tricks and it was fun.