Last year at the Halle Open, Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime got the opportunity to fulfill his dream of playing against his childhood hero Roger Federer on grass. It was also the first meeting between the two players born 19 years apart.
In a match that would have been overwhelming for him, Auger-Aliassime held his nerve and defeated the Swiss legend 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Reflecting on his Round of 16 victory last year, the 21-year-old recently said that it was an important win for his confidence.
"He has won here ten times. He's a legend of our sport. That was the first time that I got to play him. We had practiced a few times before. But to play him and to feel how well he was still playing and for me to be able to come up with a great performance, that was a really positive win for me and just for my confidence. It's definitely a moment I remember well," Aliassime said.
The World No. 9 eventually lost to Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the semifinals but made his mark at Wimbledon by reaching the quarterfinals, where eventual runner-up Matteo Berrettini beat him in four sets.
Talking about adapting to grass, Aliassime stated that it's difficult for young players to win big tournaments like Wimbledon because of the lack of experience on the surface.
"I don't know if players are able to adapt to a surface or the surface adapts to the players. The younger players are not as established and don't have much experience on the surface. We only play three to four tournaments a year. It's difficult for young players to break through on the big stages on this surface or at Wimbledon, for example. I think it's not easy for us but hopefully, we can gain experience rapidly and challenge the best players to win those tournaments," said Aliassime.
Felix Auger-Aliassime to face Hubert Hurkacz in the 2022 Halle Open quarterfinals
The two players happen to be good friends off the court and have even teamed up for doubles matches in the past. This will be the third meeting between them, with Auger-Aliassime leading 2-0.
Although the Canadian is excited to play World No. 12, he admitted that it would not be an easy match.
"Hubi is a good friend of mine. A great grass-court player, a great player overall. A semi-finalist at Wimbeldon last year, he's shown why he can be a top player on this surface. It's going to be a tough one," Aliassime said.