Wimbledon: Legend Ashe the benchmark for teenager Auger-Aliassime

The 18-year-old, the youngest player in the men’s singles, said Ashe, who won Wimbledon in 1975 to add to his US Open (1968) and Australian Open (1970), was to be admired not only for what he achieved on court but also off it.

Felix Auger-Aliassime plays a backhand during his match against Corentin Moutet.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime has been compared to Arthur Ashe, the only black man to win three Grand Slam titles, and he said on Wednesday he would love to emulate the American legend.

The 18-year-old, the youngest player in the men’s singles, said Ashe, who won Wimbledon in 1975 to add to his US Open (1968) and Australian Open (1970), was to be admired not only for what he achieved on court but also off it.

Ashe died of pneumonia-related AIDS in 1993.

Auger-Aliassime edged a step closer to striking off one of Ashe’s Grand Slam wins by beating Frenchman Corentin Moutet 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the last 32 at Wimbledon.

“The comparison, yeah, it goes back far,” said Auger-Aliassime.

“Obviously, he’s a big model for me but also many players.

“But he was just a great human and he kind of changed things in a sport and in his life, and he changed a lot of people’s lives.

“So I think that’s what I take from him. And if I could do that one day in my way, that would be great, yeah.

“Hopefully I can have a similar career.”

Auger-Aliassime, who first picked up a racquet aged four and was coached by his Togolese father Sam till he was 12, said he had felt nervous prior to his match with Moutet due to him being the favourite.

However, he added he is well acquainted with such feelings as he was sent away on his own to compete aged 10.

Indeed this was a strategy of his father who explained it was common practice in Africa to give children autonomy so they could learn to look after themselves.

“I can recall being 10 years old and playing the first time away from home and being very nervous, you know,” said Aliassime-Auger.

“I think since I’m very young, you kind of learn how to deal with this pressure, with the stress.”

'Carry the sport'

Very composed for his age, Auger-Aliassime said he understood when others of the ‘NextGen’ group such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev - who both went out in the first round - talk of the pressure of being regarded as the future Grand Slam winners.

However, he refuted the suggestion that he was one of those to “carry the sport forward“.

“Carry the sport is a bit much,” he said.

“Obviously, yeah, there’s a bit of a pressure.

“I could sense for Stefanos and Zverev, it’s difficult because they have done already great things. They’re so young. But at the same time, this is extreme amount of pressure on them to play well in the slams.

“But I think, you know, it just comes when it has to come and everyone has his own timing for that.”

Auger-Aliassime, whose father is one of 13 children and became interested in tennis as they had a tennis court at their home in Togo, is aware that should he get past he will probably face defending champion Novak Djokovic.

“I know if I win I could play Novak,” he said.

“But then there is a match to play. So I think once the match gets going, you’re already in enough trouble on the court, you don’t really think of what could happen.”