The future is now for Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The 16-year-old inducted himself into an exclusive club on Sunday, becoming the seventh youngest player to ever win an ATP Challenger event with his 6-4, 6-1 victory over 171st-ranked Frenchman Mathias Bourge in the final of the Open de Sopra Steria in Lyon, France.
“It was really tough mentally, it was tough physically. I was pushing myself to the limits almost every match but at the end of the week I found the little edge to get over these guys,” said Auger-Aliassime during a conference call Monday.
With the title, the Montreal native surged into the ATP top 250, becoming the youngest player to accomplish the feat since Juan Martin del Potro in 2005.
“It’s incredible, for sure. It’s two weeks I’ll never forget,” said Auger-Aliassime.
He will begin at No. 231, the highest debut ranking since Richard Gasquet came in at No. 212 in 2002.
After winning the U.S. Open boys’ title last year, then grabbing the Birmingham Futures title in November — his first pro tournament victory — Auger-Aliassime knew he had the skills to compete at the professional level.
“I keep on confirming that I’m at the right place. I’m able to play at a high level with the guys in futures and now at challenger level,” said Auger-Aliassime. “There was an adaptation, it took a little bit of time, but probably shorter than I thought.”
This latest triumph just counts as further affirmation. And it wasn’t like Auger-Aliassime scratched his way to the title either. He dominated.
He lost just three sets over five matches, and swept the semifinal and final, even though he entered the tournament as a wild card.
“Every tournament I play I always believe in my chances. My level wasn’t far from these guys. It was a tough start to the tournament, winning my first three matches in three sets,” said the 16-year-old.
“I think what I did during the tournament was I fought well mentally. I…