Novak Djokovic has been warned that Felix Auger-Aliassime could become the next man to challenge him after winning three titles in the space of three weeks. The 22-year-old has become the player to beat this autumn and former world No 1 Mats Wilander made a bold claim as he said Auger-Aliassime could be a “step above” the 21-time Major champion.
Auger-Aliassime is in the form of his life, winning his 16th match in a row at the Paris Masters on Friday. The world No 8 has won three titles in the last three weeks and is now bidding to become the first man in 41 years to win four over four weeks.
Following his recent success, Mats Wilander has now warned Djokovic that the 22-year-old could challenge him at the Grand Slams after getting a win over him at the Laver Cup in September. “It’s an unbelievable thing to win three in a row, it’s an amazing physical effort,” the retired pro told Eurosport.
“These tournaments are tournaments where he’s basically beating players that he should beat, and we always knew Felix Auger-Aliassime had it in him to beat players that he’s better than.” The seven-time Grand Slam winner then said he thought the Canadian would be able to compete with the “best in the world” as a result.
He continued: “On paper when he’s up against the best players in the world, that’s when he has to start believing he’s as good as them. This is just a confidence boost, it couldn’t happen to a better and nicer guy.”
After warning the likes of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the retired former world No 1 then went as far as to compare Auger-Aliassime’s game to the Serb’s, admitting that the Canadian could be even better – a statement Wilander said he wasn’t making “lightly”.
“Be very aware, when he’s playing, his serve is absolutely huge, his physicality is that of Novak Djokovic and maybe even a step above, and that doesn’t come lightly under my mouth because I’ve always thought Djokovic was the greatest athlete of any sport,” he declared. “But Felix Auger-Aliassime is right up there and would push Novak for his money in every department physically, and that’s unbelievable.”
The Canadian’s strong end to the season seemingly started at the Laver Cup, where he got his first victory over Djokovic to contribute to Team World’s first-ever win at the team tournament. He has since beaten world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz twice, and managed to win three successive titles.
And Wilander thought the Laver Cup was the reason for his success, adding: “I don’t think you can ever put enough value on a player that gets to spend a week with John McEnroe and his brother Patrick McEnroe as a coaching staff at the Laver Cup. It’s not like they’re going to change you completely as a player, but there might be a thing or two that they say that you might pick up on that gives you a little confidence.
“I think the motivation factor has always been there for Felix Auger-Aliassime, he’s one of the most motivated human beings that I’ve ever come across, especially on a tennis court and off the court. He was maybe missing in the confidence department, and I think maybe having a John McEnroe, and again, I’m not saying that he did say something, but it’s a stepping stone in the right direction.”