WATCH: Felix Auger-Aliassime shares a moment at the net with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after his first-round win in Marseille.


When Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated his childhood idol Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in the first round of Marseille it felt like a “full-circle moment”, he said in an interview with Eurosport.

The 21-year-old Canadian lifted his first ATP trophy in Rotterdam earlier this month, ending a long wait that included straight-sets defeats in eight consecutive finals. But once Auger-Aliassime tasted victory he just couldn’t stop winning, and he reached his 10th ATP final a week later in France.

But along the way, he faced a big test against home favorite Tsonga in the first round. Auger-Alisassime defeated the 36-year-old 7-6(3), 6-2 in an emotional match, and after the match the pair shared a few words at the net.

“Eight-year-old Felix had dreams about this match,” Auger-Aliassime tweeted afterward, to which Tsonga responded, “Bravo Felix, I played my idols too when I arrived on the tour. Victory or defeat, these are the moments that remain engraved in our memories.”

For Auger-Aliassime, seeing Tsonga dominating the tour was an inspiration during his early years as a player of color. Tsonga, whose ranking peaked at world No. 5, has amassed 18 titles in his career, as well as an Olympic silver medal in the 2012 London Games and a run to the Australian Open final in 2008.

“I liked his charisma, his game was very explosive and he was fun to watch,” Auger-Aliassime told Eurosport. “And also I can't deny the fact that since we both have the same background, skin color and all that, or very similar at least, I just felt like as a kid, when you have representation on your TV, you feel like you can relate. It really felt like, ‘Oh, this could be me, you know?’

“So I think that's why I idolized him and I really looked up to him, because I really felt like I could relate, compared to other American or European players, where it felt a bit distant… As a kid growing up, it felt like, OK, this is for them, this is not attainable for me’.

“But seeing Jo doing his thing, it felt like, OK, maybe we do have a similar story or background and it felt like he was a big brother.”

Auger-Aliassime will be back in action at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which kicks off on March 8. He was initially scheduled to take part in the Dubai Tennis Championships, but withdrew citing a back injury.