Piano playing a part in fine-tuning rising star Auger-Aliassime

Felix Auger-Aliassime has been tickling the ivories during his time off, which is music to the ears of coach Frederic Fontang.

Published : Apr 05, 2019 10:01 IST

Striking the right note off court can help Felix Auger-Aliassime call the tune and become one of tennis' great entertainers.

That is what is being preached by Frederic Fontang, one of two coaches nurturing the talent of a teenage prodigy who has experienced a rapid rise this season.

Auger-Aliassime only turned 18 last August, but the Canadian has carried big expectations on his shoulders since becoming the youngest player to win a main-draw match on the ATP Challenger Tour aged only 14.

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The Montreal native fuelled further hype when he was crowned US Open boys champion in 2016, before going on to win four Challenger titles.

Auger-Aliassime has soared to new heights this year, becoming the youngest ever Miami Open semifinalist last week after marching into a first ATP Tour final in Rio back in February.

After climbing from outside the top 100 to 33rd in the space of six weeks, the gifted youngster is enjoying some hard-earned time off before starting his clay-court season.

Fontang - who shares coaching responsibilities with Guillaume Marx - believes some alternative fine-tuning is playing a key part in the development of a player who would have become an artist if his tennis career had not taken off.

"After what Felix achieved in Miami, it was great that he could have two weeks off before the Monte Carlo Masters," Fontang said.

"He went back to Montreal and has time to recover, which is really important. He will of course do some work on his game and fitness training, but can also have time to relax.

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"He likes to play the piano, so no doubt he will be doing that in his time off. Sometimes when there is a piano when we are touring, he will play.

"He played at Indian Wells, because there was a piano in the lobby. His sister was playing as well, it is something he really enjoys. It is not really something I have known a player to do and I think it is great."

It may not be long before he is tickling the ivories to celebrate winning a first ATP Tour title, but Frenchman Fontang says it is important not to expect too much so early in his career.

Fontang, in his third season coaching Auger-Aliassime, added: "We are really focused on the development, everybody will be looking at his results and seeing when he is going to win but it's very important that we stay focused on the process.

"We know he has the firepower, is very athletic and is a good server, but we have to keep working on the precision and the transition to the net for him to improve on all surfaces. There will be no prediction on what he can achieve, it is all about the development of his game now."

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Fontang was prepared to serve up a verdict on an exciting crop of Next Gen players that will be music to the ears of tennis fanatics.

He said: "When we see the spectacular game of players such as Felix, [Denis] Shapovalov, [Alexander] Zverev, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas etc, we can see there is a lot of quality young players and it is exciting. They have interesting personalities and athletic games, so it is very positive for tennis."

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