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Montreal teen Auger-Aliassime sticking to clay ahead of French Open

Montreal teen Auger-Aliassime sticking to clay ahead of French Open
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Fresh off his success in Canada’s Davis Cup win over Slovakia last weekend, Auger-Aliassime is in Buenos Aires where he will play in next week’s Argentina Open. He will also play clay court events in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo before returning to hardcourt tennis with the ATP Masters event in Indians Wells, Calif., and Miami.

“I enjoy playing on clay and I think I have a chance of going deep in one of these tournaments,” Auger-Aliassime, 18, said during a conference call from Buenos Aires Thursday. “After these three tournaments, I’ll follow the regular schedule with clay going into the French Open,  grass courts before Wimbledon and then back to North America for the hardcourt season.”

Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime celebrates his victory against Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos during the Davis Cup qualifiers tennis match Slovakia vs Canada in Bratislava on Feb. 2, 2019. VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP/Getty Images

Auger-Aliassime is No. 107 in the ATP Tour rankings and can crack the top 100 for the first time with a couple of wins in South America. His goal for the coming year is join countryman and good friend Denis Shapovalov in the top 50.

Canada defeated Slovakia 3-2 to earn a spot in the 18-nation Davis Cup finals. Auger-Aliassime supplied the deciding point when he defeated Norbert Gombos 6-3, 6-4 in the final singles match.

The Davis Cup format has undergone a dramatic change this year. Previously, there were as many as four rounds spaced throughout the year. The new format features last weekend’s qualifying round and the finals in November in Madrid. Matches have been shortened from best-of-five sets to best-of-three. The idea was to make the event more attractive to the top players by easing their workload, but Auger-Aliassime isn’t sure it’s going to have the desired effect.

“The finals are at the end of a long season and I’ve heard some players aren’t going to play,” said Auger-Aliassime.

Canada is seeded 13th for the finals and Auger-Aliassime believes the country deserved a higher seed.

“If we have Milos (Raonic) and Denis, we’ll be very strong,” he said.

Raonic, who is the top-ranked Canadian at No. 14, skipped the Slovakia tie and, if he plays in the finals, he’ll push Auger-Aliassime out of a singles assignment.  That’s one reason why Auger-Aliassime will play more doubles matches this year, preferably with Shapovalov as his partner.

Auger-Aliassime isn’t the only Montreal  teenager finding success on the tennis court this year, Leylah Annie Fernandez, 16, reached the final of the Australian Open junior women’s event and is No. 5 in the ITF junior rankings.

While Auger-Aliassime has his schedule mapped out for the first half of the year, Fernandez doesn’t have any events on her schedule.

“It depends on what tournaments I can get into and what we can afford,” Fernandez said from her training base in Boynton Beach, Fla.

She declined an invitation to train at Tennis Canada’s national training centre in Montreal.

“There are more good players in Florida and I like being in the sun and dealing with the wind and even some rain,” said Fernandez, who plans to play as many events as possible.

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