July 12, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Félix Auger-Aliassime will meet for the first time on court Thursday, in the second round of the Open 13 Marseille.

But they first met long ago.

That first meeting came during an event for kids at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, just before the 2015 edition of the Rogers Cup.

Tsonga, 30, was ranked No. 12 in the world.

Auger-Aliassime, still days away from his 15th birthday, was ranked … No. 740 in the world.

His participation in that year’s Rogers Cup (now the National Bank Open) was mostly a few practice opportunities with big players, and a lot of watching.

Here he is with his national centre mates, taking in the show put on by Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock in practice.

He also had to … make a speech. And you could tell he was pretty nervous about it.

Here’s a look back at those very first baby steps by Auger-Aliassime – a player Open Court was familiar with and had seen play, but who was a brand-new face for most of the media assembled at the Big O that day.

First-ever on-court meeting

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There certainly were parallels to be drawn between the two, a commonality that made Tsonga somewhat of a role model for young FAA.

Both Tsonga and Auger-Aliassime have African fathers – Auger-Aliassime’s dad hails from Togo, Tsonga’s father Didier from Congo – and French (or French-Canadian) mothers.

You wonder if Tsonga thought, at the time, that FAA would end up being who he is – or if he was just one of the crowd of promising kids the affable Frenchman has met during his career.

Fast forward 6 1/2 years, they finally meet on court. Maybe for the only time; it’s hard to predict the future when a player will turn 37 in a few months and his body is letting him down.

Auger-Aliassime, 21, arrives fresh off his first ATP Tour title in Rotterdam, in his ninth final. He’s at a career-high No. 9 in the rankings.

Tsonga, now 36 and beset by injuries the last few years, finds his ranking down at No. 243. He needed a wild card to get into the tournament, and he caught somewhat of a break in that he drew his contemporary, Gilles Simon (also a wild card) in the first round.

It’s crazy how time flies.

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