Felix Auger-Aliassime on learning about Federer, wearing the barricade and nights out in New York
There’s just something about those night games in New York, even for a self-proclaimed fan of daytime games. ATP world number 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime says playing under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open generated some of his fondest memories in the sport.
“Normally I like day games, but in New York there is something special about the night,” he says. “The crowd gets really intense when you play at night. Everywhere else I like day, but New York… at night.”
The 22-year-old Montrealer, who says playing in New York feels like playing at home because he receives so much support, has seen the importance of learning from the greats in his already successful career.
Not only is he “lucky” to have Toni Nadal, Rafael Nadal’s longtime uncle and coach, coaching him now, talking about much more than tennis, but he cites opportunities when he was 17 years of training with Roger Federer. Auger-Aliassime says the knowledge he gained from the legend went way beyond just tennis, into the business world.
“I remember having interesting conversations with him about travel management, how he likes to be involved in all the decision-making of his (sponsorship) deals and how he likes to be active in negotiation,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I’m still young, but it’s a very interesting thing, how the negotiation process goes. I remember having conversations about it and he had great things to say.”
By taking the life lessons advice he received from his parents, Toni Nadal and Federer, Auger-Aliassime says he learned that making it his business is crucial to understanding what he is signing and that he works with companies he can align with. “This is my second year with Adidas,” he says. “It seems so short, but I’m having a lot of fun and I hope it’s a long-term relationship.”
One of Auger-Aliassime’s most high-profile sponsorship deals began in 2021 when he moved to Adidas for apparel and footwear (he’s also one of the faces of the new Babolat Pure Aero racquet, a company he has worked with since he was 4 years old). With the Adidas partnership, he says he spent the first time trying out all of the brand’s shoe designs to see what worked for him and was thrilled that Adidas brought back the Barricade.
“It was the shoe, even when I was a kid,” he says. “Everyone knew the Barricade. It’s such a famous shoe in tennis and in sports. I saw it all the time growing up in tennis clubs, it’s one of the most famous shoes ever made. Glad to be wearing the latest version of this.”
When Auger-Aliassime first signed with Adidas, he traveled to their headquarters in Germany to get a personal fit, saying it was important to him that everything was suitable for movement on the pitch, especially the short. “I’ve done all the tests and all the scans,” he says, “so I have clothes that fit like a glove.”
Auger-Aliassime tends towards fitted cuts for shorts and shirts and prefers light and airy materials, avoiding anything that becomes heavy or constricting. As his relationship with the brand grows, he becomes more involved in giving his opinion on the designs, “saying what I like and being able to change my color if I prefer to have a different color during a day game or if I like a lighter tone”. So far, he’s called the collections he’s worn – at the US Open in New York, Adidas launched the Thebe Magugu collection, colorfully inspired by African heritage – incredible design.
“Everyone wants my shorts and my t-shirts,” he jokes. “It’s a problem I have.”
The discussion with the designers of Adidas corresponds to the interests of the Canadian. When he’s on the road for tournaments, shopping keeps him entertained, while sampling the best restaurants in each city. “Materials are super important if you’re in it all day,” he says. “I like to look good and if you look good you feel good. If you have outfits you like you play good in them and there’s something special about them and your brain remembers those times. The same goes for off-court . I like to think about what I’m going to wear to an event, shopping, or to dinner parties. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, matching the colors and the chopped off.”
All interests off the pitch take a back seat as Auger-Aliassime sinks deeper into tournaments. As he got older, he stopped caring about his ranking, which turned into a negative pressure factor when he was younger. “I learned through experiences that didn’t work for me,” he says. “For me, every tournament is an opportunity to win, no matter how small. When you come to a tournament like New York, the motivation is even greater. I hope that at the end of my career I can have in won a few, those are the tournaments you want to win. Now the ranking is something very positive that I can look back on and be inspired by.”
The 2016 US Open junior winner says that while “New York isn’t the easiest city to relax in,” he’s loved coming here for years. Now he hopes to extend his stay, giving him ample opportunity to get out and sample the restaurants. “The city has a lot to offer,” says Auger-Aliassime. “After a long day at the venue (of the US Open), it’s nice to come back and enjoy a meal with the team and the family.” Even if it means a late night after one of those famous New York night games.