There is a tipping point in the arrival in the popular imagination. It’s when everyone in a city or country feels they must learn to properly pronounce their name.
Denis Shapovalov earned that badge last year in Montreal. People had been massacring his surname for ages, but after he beat Rafael Nadal, Canadian tennis fans got their phonetic house in order.
We are getting very close to the time when we’ll all have to get our mouths around a lot of syllables in a hurry. Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime is getting ready to pop.
He teased early on Wednesday against Russian Daniil Medvedev and was up a break in the third, but could not hang on. He ran out into the lead in the tiebreak – 4-1 – but gave it back.
Auger-Aliassime played like a young man, but was never overawed. After more than two-and-a-half hours on the court, he lost by the margin of a couple points, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8).
As it ended, the more experienced Russian dropped to the ground in celebration. He looked like a man who’d just won a final.
Shapovalov, the last Canadian standing, may still go on to do great things this year in Toronto. But at least right now, the tournament feels like Auger-Aliassime’s coming out.
He made his debut on the tour proper in March. In June, he became the youngest player to defend an ATP Challenger title. In a few weeks, he’ll be looking to qualify for his first major. A lot has happened in a little bit of time.
But this week was special. His doubles appearance with Shapovalov on the opening day was the equivalent of a cool new band making its debut. He beat a top-20 player (Lucas Pouille). Novak Djokovic called him “refreshing.” He reached the age of majority on Wednesday.
There are doubtless better professional times ahead of Auger-Aliassime, but one suspects he may remember this week as his real big-league debut.