Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada returns to Alex De Minaur of Australia during their boy’s singles match on day eleven of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Thursday, July 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ben Curtis

Canada’s Auger-Aliassime focusing on clay with long-term goals in mind

Canada’s Auger-Aliassime focusing on clay with long-term goals in mind

After bowing out in the second round of qualifying at the French Open, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime sat down with his coaches and decided to make a short-term change with a long-term goal in mind.

The 17-year-old from Montreal opted to extend his run on clay courts and skip the grass-court season. It’s a move that appears to be paying off.

Auger-Aliassime won an ATP Challenger tournament in Lyon after his appearance at Roland Garros and reached the final a week later in Blois, France.

Rather than face a potential early qualifying exit at a grass-court event like Wimbledon, Auger-Aliassime has enjoyed some deep runs on the lower-level circuit while playing on a slower surface where rallies tend to be longer.

The goal is to maximize that court time, soak up the experience and use it as a building block for the future.

“To be humble and to play Challengers, I think it’s good for his mentality,” said Louis Borfiga, Tennis Canada’s vice-president of high performance. “He has to understand that it’s a long way to be a champion … I think it’s the right mentality for the future.”

Considered one of the best prospects in the sport, Auger-Aliassime has already risen to No. 152 in the world rankings. He has a big serve, powerful strokes from both sides and strong court coverage skills.

He looks like a veteran even though he’s a month away from his 18th birthday.

“I think I have the game to play well on every surface,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Hopefully by next year, I can play all four Slams in the same year.”

He joined elite company with his third career Challenger win. Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet and Juan Martin del Potro are the only other players who have won at least three titles on the circuit before turning 18.

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