Nina Pantic reports from the 2016 Australian Open on second-week matches—and, in Down Under the Radar, aspects of the tournament that go beyond the court.

MELBOURNE, Australia—The number of matches begins to dwindle during the second week of a Slam, but not if you’re under 18. The junior event is just ramping up, and it’s here that future Grand Slam champions begin to make names for themselves.

One junior who’s already done that is Felix Auger-Aliassime. He shares a birthday with Roger Federer, but he was born 19 years later—yes, that’s right, in the year 2000. The 15-year-old hails from Quebec City, Canada and is considered one of the game’s top prospects.

Last year, Auger-Aliassime became the first player born in the 2000s to earn an ATP ranking (he’s now ranked No. 737), and the youngest player to ever win an ATP Challenger match (he reached the quarterfinals of Granby in July). He has backed it up with two Futures quarterfinal appearances since then.

Down Under the Radar: Meet the prodigy, Félix Auger-Aliassime

Down Under the Radar: Meet the prodigy, Félix Auger-Aliassime


The teenager also won the prestigious Eddie Herr International in December and has risen to No. 8 in the junior world rankings. Auger-Aliassime saved three match points to win that title over Australia’s Alex De Minaur, becoming the youngest champion in tournament history. At his first junior Grand Slam tournament last summer, he won the U.S. Open doubles title with fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

The pair were also part of the winning junior Davis Cup team in October, which marked the first-ever title for Canadian juniors. Auger-Aliassime is making history nearly every time he steps on court.

The 6’2” prodigy began playing at the age of four thanks to his father Sam, who hails from Togo. Sam coached Felix until he was 12, but he now trains out of Canada’s National Training Centre in Montreal under the tutelage of Frenchman Guillaume Marx, who has worked previously with Milos Raonic.

“It’s great. The staff is great,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think we have everything we need there.”

Auger-Aliassime has trained on occasions with Raonic in Montreal, and looks up to the top-ranked Canadian as well as Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils. Auger-Aliassime has a powerful game boosted by a big serve, but he also isn’t afraid to show off his athleticism and finesse.

With the path he’s on, it’s only a matter of time before the youngster starts seriously considering a career path in the pros.

“[Turning pro] would be my goal,” he said. “But I still have a few years in juniors, three more years, so it’s still early to say, but that would be my goal and that’s what I’m working for.”

Not everything is coming easy for Auger-Aliassime—on Wednesday, the No. 4 seed fell in the third round of the junior event to No. 15 Keneth Raisma, 6-3, 6-1. Still, it was just his Auger-Aliassime's second junior Grand Slam, and his first time past the second round.


Down Under the Radar: Meet the prodigy, Félix Auger-Aliassime

Down Under the Radar: Meet the prodigy, Félix Auger-Aliassime

“I hope to come back here next year and play better, hopefully,” he said with disappointment. Auger-Aliassime is mature and soft spoken, though eloquent for someone who’s just a tenth-grader.

With what’s likely to be hundreds of matches in his future, Auger-Aliassime shouldn’t stress this loss. His plans for this year include playing in all the remaining junior Slams, and going much farther in them than he did in Melbourne.

“To win one of them that would be a great achievement,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But there’s still a lot of work to do.”

There is, but odds are this is a name you’ll want to remember.