#4 : Félix Auger-Aliassime

#4 : Félix Auger-Aliassime
The Edge
#4 : Félix Auger-Aliassime

May 26 2021 | 00:55:53

Episode 4 May 26, 2021 00:55:53

Hosted By

TAG Heuer

Show Notes

This time on The Edge, a podcast by TAG Heuer, we volley some ideas with Félix Auger-Aliassime, one of today’s most accomplished young tennis stars. In our conversation, we explore Félix’s childhood, an early start with the sport and what it takes — each and every day — to be at the top of his game. Your host is Teo van den Broeke, Style Director at GQ. Watch out - this is The Edge.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:01 I think the consistency, uh, and the routine brings confidence. I think nothing else does. Really, if you feel like you can repeat a same amount of work, or if you can repeat a shot many times and be precise, that's, what's gonna give you the confidence that you're getting stronger, that you feel better. You have to build something, uh, solid. And that comes from consistency in, in doing, uh, simple things. Speaker 2 00:00:36 What gives us our edge and how do we go beyond it? How thin is the line between taking part and tipping into victory? What inspires those moments of rare advantage that change the shape of a race, a winners born or made, and what happens when things go wrong or when it all goes right. Welcome to the edge. We'll be talking to people operating at the very edge of possibility from athletes to actors and from artists to entrepreneurs. I'm your host te van and BRCA watch out. This is the edge, a podcast by tag Hoya. Hi, Val, Speaker 1 00:01:28 How are you? Hi, dear. Nice to meet you. I'm good. Thank you. Speaker 2 00:01:31 Love lovely to meet you. Thank you for taking the time today and thank you for joining us at the edge. Fantastic to have you here. Um, so I guess for the, for, for those listeners who don't necessarily know your story, you grew up in Quebec. You're 20 years old and you've been seen as a number 20 tennis player in the world, which is an extraordinary thing. And you've done all of that in a very, very short space of time. How has that journey been? <laugh> what was, what and what has the journey been for Speaker 1 00:01:55 You? Well, uh, you know, the journey has been, uh, nothing but amazing really, um, and everything I always, uh, hoped for. And, you know, since I'm a kid, like you said, I, I grew up, um, in Quebec city, I was, um, born in Montreal, but then raised in, um, a quiet, uh, little neighborhood in, in Quebec city and, you know, to go from there, dreaming of becoming a professional player and every year improving, uh, going up in, uh, the rankings, um, achieving more and more, uh, things on the, on the tennis world, the tennis circuit at a very young age, it was, uh, it, it was a great thing. And I think I was always able to, to stay on the right track and, and focus on the right things and that, I guess what, um, allowed me to, uh, to perform the way I did in the recent years. But, uh, to be honest, uh, at many moments it's been, uh, more than I expected, even though I always, uh, had a, a high belief in myself that I, I could, uh, I could achieve these things. Speaker 2 00:03:00 I imagine. I mean, as we say, you know, you are 20 years old that you, you know, you're barely out of kind of being 18. It's an extraordinary thing. How do you kind of cope with that pressure? Because it is an enormous amount of pressure. You're kind of doing this on your own as a kind of individual, is it, do you have to kind of find ways to manage it? How, how do you deal with it? Speaker 1 00:03:21 Well, I'm, I'm really lucky to have good people around me. I think, you know, it's the first thing. Um, and for anybody it's good to have, you know, good family around you, friends, good friends. And in terms of my professional team, uh, I've been very blessed to, to have, uh, great coaches, uh, that care not only for the player I am, but for the person that I am and they care about my wellbeing. I have, uh, a great physio, fitness coach, great agent. Uh, everybody that works around me is, is really, uh, you know, taking good care and making sure that I have everything I need and making sure that I'm I'm I'm well. So, um, I think that's also helped a lot in the process and I think, uh, my parents gave me, um, a good foundations in my education to, to, to, to, to navigate and, uh, and the world I'm, uh, I'm in now. So that's why I think, you know, through the years, uh, even though things have gone fast at times, I've been able to, to stay pretty grounded and, and not, you know, uh, I guess break or, um, crack on their pressure. Like, uh, <laugh> like we like to stay here. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:04:34 Um, I mean, we should go back to the beginning, I guess, how, you know, for a lot of the listeners, they won't necessarily have been to Quebec. What, how was it growing up in that kind of historic town? Speaker 1 00:04:43 It was nice. Um, so it was for my dad's job actually, because my mom is, uh, originally from, uh, Montreal, which is the biggest city in that, uh, province. And then Quebec city was, was nice because I grew up in a neighborhood where I could walk to school, um, where I had, I could walk to the tennis courts. I could bike around with my friends, uh, even, you know, without my parents always being behind me, I could just go to, to my friend's house or go, uh, do anything I wanted, uh, around the neighborhood. So it was a really a nice way to grow up. You know, I spent, uh, six, seven years there and it's really good memories of just, uh, being able to, to have, uh, you know, really a kid's life. That's just enjoying his time going to school. Uh, and I was playing a lot of tennis, especially in the summer. My dad had a summer camp going on, um, at the local club and I was able to, to play a lot of tennis there and, and have fun with my friends. So, uh, honestly, uh, nothing crazy of a city or exotic, even though it's got a rich history, but my name, my, my childhood was just, um, uh, perfect in a way. Uh, I was able to, to be very balanced and, and have all the things I needed. Speaker 2 00:06:00 I mean, it sounds from what you're saying, that it sounds like you kind of, you grew up with a tennis racket in your hand. Can you kind of tell us how you started getting into tennis? What, what was the kind of route in? Speaker 1 00:06:10 Well, my dad has always been a big passionate of, of the game of tennis. Um, he's a tennis coach himself, uh, now owns an academy and, uh, he's the one that first showed me tennis with my sister. So, I mean, I often say that I don't really have a clear memory of not playing tennis and that's how far it goes back. <laugh> like, I don't remember the day I started because I just felt like, uh, tennis was always in my life. Like I always had a racket in my hand. I mean, we often make jokes that, uh, pretty much, uh, I was walking and my dad put me put a racket in my hand and I was hitting some tennis balls around the house. So it started at a really young age and the, and the passion just got stronger and stronger. And I, I had good abilities and I think my dad also saw good potential and, and some talent in, in me, uh, at a young age. So, um, I think, uh, with that, he had, he had very high ambitions for me because he thought I, I would have possibilities to be, uh, maybe a good player one day, because that was my dream from the age of six, at seven years old was to be a professional player one day. So my dad believed and he, he saw the potential. So he really pushed me to, to keep going. Speaker 2 00:07:23 And you, and you loved it from the get go, I guess. I mean, it was really, it was something that you actually enjoyed as well. It wasn't as if you were kind of, you know, forced into that space. You Speaker 1 00:07:31 Exactly. No, exactly. Speaker 2 00:07:32 For sure. What was that feeling? What, what was that feeling that you kind of had? What was the thing that connects you to that kind of racket? You know what I mean? Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, at what point did it kind of become galvanized? Speaker 1 00:07:44 Well, you know, tennis is not easy because it's a very technical sport. Um, I mean, in some ways, of course there's more movement, but you could compare it to, you know, golf or a golf swing where like a serve in tennis is very technical. There's a lot of things that go into it to perfect that movement. And as a kid, the learning process is, is, is tough. You know, it's long and you have to know how to hit every shot, the forehand, the back end, the serve, the volley. So the process is long. So that was a side that was difficult for me, you know, to, to, to, to, to learn that the, the technique and to perfect it. And I always had more natural shots, uh, as my, my forehead or my surf, but for me, the thing I liked the most, well, like two things I would say was first just hitting a ball nicely is the best feeling. Speaker 1 00:08:36 Uh, like again with golf, I think if you hit the center and the sound is nice, it's the best feeling. So I think in tennis, when you hit it nice surf, uh, with a good sound and, and, and the center of the racket, it's really a great feeling in your, in your arm and in your body. And the second thing for me was the competition that I loved. I loved, uh, the challenge to, to play tournaments, to compete, um, and the feeling of winning because, uh, I was not only competitive in tennis. Trust me. Uh, if you ask my, my family, uh, in board games or, or card games at home, I was always, uh, very competitive, really. Speaker 2 00:09:10 So do you think, do you kind of think that you need that killer instinct, that real kind of drive to succeed in order to do what you do? Speaker 1 00:09:18 Well, I think in a way, yes. Um, we all have a different way to, to approach competition, but in the end in the world, um, I'm in, uh, there's a winner and a loser every day, every match. And that's just the reality of it. Of course you win some, you lose some, but you need to want to win almost more than the opponent or as much at least. So, um, the, really the, the, the competition is, uh, something that's been in my life or that's been in my day to day for forever, pretty much, you know, and always, uh, in, in training, physical training, uh, when it was with my, my peers, my friends, when I was training at the national center with six or seven other boys, we had this healthy competition that I think pushed us to, to improve every day. And that's the thing that I think was, um, uh, important for, for me in the process of becoming the player I am today was to, to, to learn, uh, and how to, to deal with that competitive side of, of this world. Speaker 2 00:10:26 How do you deal with that? I, I, I, it's quite an interesting thing because, you know, when you're a young boy, you're having to kind of go off against your friends and kind of dealing with that competition. How, what, what's the, how do you do, how do you do it? Speaker 1 00:10:37 You know, I think in life, um, I'm a pretty, no like normal guy or nice guy. Like I'm not, um, I don't like, uh, have, you know, big sense of empathy, I think. And you never like to see, let's say a friend, or even your peers, your colleagues, you to, you, don't like to, to beat them, or you don't like to see them sad, or you don't like to make them feel bad. So that's a thing that sucks a little bit sometimes is, you know, we have a lot of respect either for, you know, uh, colleagues, friends, and, but in the end we have to compete and, and play each other and, and beat each other. So, um, you have to kind of learn how to, when you're on the court, you need to, to compete to, to, to both your, your highest level. And there's a phrase that's stuck with me, uh, that my coach told me, um, couple years ago, was that in the end, the best way to respect your opponent or to respect the player on the other side of the net is to play your best tennis and maybe to beat him because in the process of, of beating him, uh, you show him what he has to improve. Speaker 1 00:11:44 You're basically, uh, playing him with honesty and, and showing him what he can improve and how he, he will be a better player in the future because I've lost many matches that, uh, I've learned from, and that have made me a better player. So I think in a way, that's how I approach it more and more now is like, I need this adversity. I should not like shy away. I should not like, not like it because, uh, I need it, uh, to become, uh, a player Speaker 2 00:12:11 Player. Sure. I mean, I also get the sense that obviously you have to make massive sacrifices to do what you do to kind of be where you are that, you know, there are things that you will have had to forego, um, you know, have you missed out in school, have you missed out on social life? Like, is there anything you feel like you've kind of actually really missed and you kind of regret that, or, or is that not something that plays in your kind of sphere of feeling? Speaker 1 00:12:35 Um, not so much, I would say, because growing up, I still had, uh, pretty balanced life. Uh, you can understand that I started playing, uh, very seriously or taking tennis very seriously at a young age. We're talking 6, 7, 8 years old, already traveling to play tournaments, playing tournaments every weekend and all that, but still in the end, um, I had a great social life, uh, with, you know, had a lot of friends. I was going to normal school. Um, and so in the end, I would say, when I think back, I have no regrets because I had, I made the choice of course, to play a lot of tennis because that's what I loved, but I also felt like I've experienced everything a young boy or a teenager had to experience. Uh, I really did so amazing. It was, it was the perfect balance. And, um, of course there gets to a point where, uh, I wouldn't call them sacrifices, but I think it's choices that you have to make. And you have to accept that. Yeah, certain choices come with with certain circumstances where if I choose to become a professional tennis player, and that's my dream, then surely I'm gonna have to pass out on some nights out with my friends or, or, or not going to training or a lazy Sunday. So for sure, I'm gonna have to pass out on those, but I, I still had them, uh, on sometimes. So it was good balance. Speaker 2 00:14:02 Amazing. So earlier this year, it was announced that you'd be working with Tony Nadal, RA raft, uncle, who would be your coach mm-hmm <affirmative>, which is amazing. And he's a legend to tennis, and he's been praised for his mental focus, which is extraordinary. I mean, that idea of mental focus is that the decisive edge between being a good player and a champion like Nadal, I mean, is it an area of your game that you are kind of trying to strengthen with uncle Tony Inver commerce? Speaker 1 00:14:26 Yeah, no, it's a great thing, uh, that I have in on my side now that we've decided, uh, as a team to, to, to Adam and to, uh, to get to, uh, his experience and his knowledge from the, from the high level and just, yeah, kind of what he's been through with, uh, with his nephew and to see how we can learn from this and what he can teach me. But I think of course the big thing is that everybody, a lot of players hit the ball really well, have great shots, uh, or good physically. Now you see players, everybody runs well, everybody's fast, everybody's strong, but in the end on your career, the difference will be the consistency that you will be able to have, you know, year after year. Uh, once you reach a certain level, it's about, of course, trying to improve to stay consistent because everybody's trying to be better. Speaker 1 00:15:19 And, uh, that's a big thing that, you know, we're, we're trying to focus on and it goes through many things, you know, as much as technically tactically in the game mentally, like you said, the focus that you have to bring every practice, but, uh, trying just to be more consistent with, uh, with my shots, with my precision. And it's a process, you know, it's a process and it's an everyday process. It's not, uh, something that you you're able to perfect. Um, um, you know, one day after the day after the other, but Tony is a, is a good help. And I like him a lot. He's a, he's a great person, great character. So we're, we're, I enjoy working with him. Speaker 2 00:16:00 I mean, it must have been quite mad playing adult. I mean, you know, playing against an adult, like, how was that for you like that? The pressure of that must be enormous, you know, particularly when, when you have that connection to Tony in that kind of way. Speaker 1 00:16:14 Well, I haven't played, uh, Rael and adults since I'm working with Tony. Uh, so that hasn't happened yet, but okay. I did play, uh, Rafael two years ago, uh, actually here in Madrid, uh, which I lost in, in, in two sets, but it was, it was a good match for on my part. It was a good learning experience. You know, I kind of went into this match, really having nothing to lose, trying to, to, you know, find a way to, to give myself a chance. Uh, and of course always believing that I can win, but, um, in the end it was good to see, um, you know, to feel how he plays live on the court, to feel his ball, uh, to feel the pressure that he can put on you. And, and also showing me what areas I can improve, um, to maybe one day beat players like this. Speaker 2 00:17:04 Yeah, I can imagine. I mean, with that in mind, do you kind of have mental preparation, um, rituals that you go through when you are kind of preparing for that kind of match? Speaker 1 00:17:13 I mean, first thing is I focus on myself rather than the opponent. Um, right. I think more and more it's about if you're able to bring your best game, uh, every day you're gonna give yourself good chances against, you know, all the players to win. And then of course you have to adapt on the opponent sometimes a little bit tactically or during the match you see, what's working, you see what's not working. And there's also a whole that we don't see, uh, from the outside, but there's a lot of thinking going on, um, between points or between games at the changeover to kind of see what's working and to adapt your, your, your, your shots and your choices. And no, but before the match, I stick to my routine. I, I do the, the, the same thing every time, you know, uh, warm up, uh, you know, a couple hours before the match, depending on the hour, get some food in, um, then relax. And then I start warming up, um, when, uh, my match, uh, gets close to starting, and I just focus on that routine, do the things I have to do. And that's, that's, uh, how I approach it. Speaker 2 00:18:22 Is it so having that kind of consistency is really important. You need to kind of stick to the same thing every time in order to kind of make your mind focused on the task in hand. Is that, is that key that con like idea of consistency? Speaker 1 00:18:35 I think the consistency, uh, and the routine brings confidence. I think nothing else does really, if you feel like you can repeat a same amount of work, or if you can repeat a shot many times and be precise, or you can repeat your, your routine, uh, physically that's when that's, what's gonna give you the confidence that you're getting stronger, that you feel better. For me, it's not about changing every day and, and not doing the same thing. I feel like it's, you have to build something, uh, solid. And that comes from consistency in, in doing, uh, simple things. Speaker 2 00:19:14 Right. It's interesting. I mean, so tennis speaking, frankly, it's often perceived as a kind of sport choice of middle classes. Um, you know, and it's a very white sport traditionally. Yeah. Do you see yourself as kind of having a, maybe not a duty, but a role in kind of, um, pushing diversity within tennis and kind of making that conversation happen in a way that maybe it hasn't happened before Speaker 1 00:19:36 The barrier has been broken already by players before me, if I think of Archer Ash, if I think of Yik Noah players from immigrant parents, or from African descendants who, uh, were able to succeed at a high level in tennis and, and win grand slams and win biggest tournaments in our sport. So they've already shown, um, that, and I think at, at times also when, uh, racism was even more active in the people's life, uh, I think at the time of Archer rash, for example, I think it took him a lot of courage and, uh, I think he spoke really highly. And he's one of those people that you could say left, uh, a mark in history. Like he left a legacy behind him, uh, which is really important. And I think I'm kind of in the following of that, which, um, I was, when I was growing up, um, I was already seeing a little bit of diversity on Tennessee and in sports in general and felt like I have my place there too. I never felt like I was out of place or that it wasn't for me. And I'm glad to see more and more diversity in tennis. And I hope that with me in it, with other players from everywhere around the world, that will really able to see, really be able to see a melting pot in tennis and even, you know, tennis players coming from, from Africa and everything. So that would be a great thing. And I'm, I'm glad that I can play my, my part in that a little bit. Speaker 2 00:21:09 So have you felt kind of accepted by the community all the way through your career? Is that, has there ever been a moment where you've kind of felt, I dunno, like struggle to be, um, accepted as part of it? Speaker 1 00:21:20 No, I honestly felt always very accepted. Um, I always treated EV everybody around me, I think with, uh, with respect treated them well, and they treated me well in return, uh, and they've respected me in return. So I think that's how I, I was approaching, uh, uh, my relationships or relationship with players, with tournaments, with fans. So I think I always got that respect back and I really never felt like I was out of place from the moments I was just a kid until now. Speaker 2 00:21:58 So you just talked about Yann Noah and kind of these other tennis players that kind of went for you and kind of spearheaded that charge. I, I, I understand you had a nice exchange with a no. When you were a junior player at bro. Gar, can you tell us a little bit about that? Speaker 1 00:22:11 It was kind of a surprise because I was playing the French open junior final, which was an important moment for me. And, uh, in the end, the match unfolds in a way that I have match points. I don't convert them. I end up losing. So I'm devastated <laugh> at the time really, cuz I was so close from winning, you know, uh, prestigious trophy as a junior and uh, I didn't and Yannick actually came right on the court, uh, to hug me or to give me, I guess, a tap in, in the back and tell me that he believes in me and that, uh, that I make him think of him when he was younger as well. And uh, that he really thinks highly of me that he wishes me the best for the future. And at the time I remember just not, uh, wanting to talk really, you know, Y no was there, but all I had in my mind is that, oh my God, I just lost this final with, with match points. Speaker 1 00:23:07 It's terrible. You know, and I didn't, I wanted no part of discussing or even being on the court. I just wanted to get out. So, but then later when I came back to the locker room, uh, which was on the other side of the, of the site, uh, at roars, um, uh, Yannick actually, um, made his way all the way over there to come in the locker and, and, and see me, uh, and, and, and talk to me again, uh, where now I was kind of more, uh, settled. The emotions were a little bit, you know, uh, I was calmer, I would say. And, um, you know, he had really good words for me again, where that he believes in, in, in my game and my talent a lot, and that he, he feels, or he thinks that I could do, um, amazing things in tennis. Speaker 2 00:23:56 How important is it to have the kind of, um, the, what adulation, the wrong word, but that kind of, you know, support from these kind of legends that exist in the world that you inhabit? Like, does it really kind of change things for you? Do you need that to kind of push your game forward? Speaker 1 00:24:13 I wouldn't say I would I'd need it, um, because I've gone without it before and at times where, um, I was just, you know, focusing on my craft and focusing on my path, my career. So I wouldn't say I need it, but it's always a nice thing to hear. I think what it just shows you is that you're working in the right direction and that you're doing the right things, because if people that have accomplished, um, the biggest things in the sport are thinking highly of you and think that you have potential to, to maybe one do something, um, uh, amazing in the sport. It shows that, or it says that you're doing right things at the moment, but then the ball is in your hands to, to be able to, to fulfill that, uh, as a player. So in the end, it's great to hear, but I always come back to focusing on myself and what I have to do because in the end, uh, I have to, to win those matches by myself. <laugh> Speaker 2 00:25:16 Yeah, of course. So then your love, so Donisha Popov is a Canadian, and he's a great friend of yours obviously, and he's one year older than you and his 10 ranks ahead in the ATP ranking. I mean, how hard is it to be friends with a competitor? How does that work? Speaker 1 00:25:30 Yeah, it's, it's not always simple because for example, we wanted to catch up and have dinner in Barcelona, but then you see the draw and you see, oh, we'll play each other in the second round. So you kind of, you don't wanna have dinner with, uh, with your opponent the night before. Uh, of course, uh, at the same time, I think, uh, we're both, uh, we have very high respect for each other and, uh, we think really highly of each other. So we're able to have a great relationship outside of the court. And then once we play each other, uh, it's the best men that wins and we compete as high as, as high as we can, and we're really motivated to, to win, but it's strictly, you know, it strictly stays on the court and then we're, we're all good, uh, outside of the court. And we've had amazing moments that we shared together such as in, in juniors winning and doubles together. And then we played Davis cup together. Um, so we had, you know, a lot of, of moments, uh, playing in team events and we shared successes. So that also connects you with, with somebody Speaker 2 00:26:36 When you are, you know, playing someone when you are that you have this opponent, do you kind of have to dehumanize them in order to be able to kind of focus on the task in hand? Because I guess if you, you are thinking about them emotionally, then it's gonna kind of cloud your ability. Is that, is that right? Speaker 1 00:26:52 Yeah, you're totally right. I think, um, you know, in the end you have to focus on the ball <laugh> right. I mean, it's not that easy to, to do, it's easier said than done, because for example, if, for instance, you're playing Roger Feder or Rael Nadal, like the ball's coming at you, but there's also a whole, uh <laugh> um, I would say, uh, like just the pressure of who they are and what they've done, you know, there's like 20 grand slams coming at you, right. When you step on the court. So it's not easy to, to separate, you know, the, of course the level that they play and the person that, or what your opponent is. But in the end, I think I got I'm in a place now today after a few years on the tour where having practiced and played with all the best players in the rankings and, and all the best players of the past and in the present, I'm able to really, you know, uh, approach any match, um, with confidence that I can win and not see, you know, uh, like you said, humanize the, the opponent and just see them as, you know, okay. Speaker 1 00:28:00 Another opponent and a match to play and, and kind of forget, uh, everything, uh, of the outside, you know, Speaker 2 00:28:08 Mm-hmm, I mean, with that in mind, it kind of strikes me that tennis is quite a lonely sport. I mean, you know, if you're playing rugby or football or whatever, you have a team around you, and you're kind of working together to kind of achieve that goal, so to speak, but in tennis, it's, it's all on you. I mean, yeah. How do you, how do you kind of cope with that? How do you manage that feeling? Speaker 1 00:28:29 No, it is, uh, very lonely. I mean, on one hand, I think I've been used to it, uh, over the years, but, um, it, it is at times, um, you know, you have to dig in, uh, really deep within yourself to find solutions because once you're the court, I often compare it as, okay. Let's say chess or, um, gladiators back in the days that once you, you, once you step into the arena, um, there's no outside sources that can really help you. Of course, there's the crowd, there's your coaches encouraging you or being there for you, but in the end, you have to sit down and think and dig in and, and, and, and find solutions on your own. And sometimes it's tough mentally, sometimes a match gets tough physically, and you have to find solutions on your own and be responsible. But I think, um, you know, the fact that it's lonely yes. On, on the one hand, it's, it's not easy, but I think it's, um, it's, uh, taught me a lot, uh, already in my life that, you know, you're responsible, uh, and you have to, um, have, you know, highest team for yourself because in the end, in pressure moments, sometimes you can only rely on you. So I think it's taught me a very, uh, high level of, um, responsibility and being responsible for the good things and bad things that happen for you. Sometimes Speaker 2 00:30:01 That's extraordinary. I mean, cuz as we were talking about earlier, I mean you are very young who have kind of come to that conclusion to figure out that's what you need to do. I mean, have there been moments where you've struggled to like find that responsibility in yourself and that kind of sense of inner strength? Speaker 1 00:30:17 Well, yeah. And actually have a story about that. So, uh, that the day that I think it really clicked in my mind Speaker 2 00:30:26 That's we love a story. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:30:27 Like at, at times I I would have to just rely on myself. So I was playing, uh, in 2016 I was playing the junior us open that I won actually in the end and I was kind of a favorite going into the tournament and I was in the second round. Um, and I was super nervous. Uh, and I was playing at a very, very poor level, uh, at the start of the match. Uh, and I just felt like so tense and in the match, my coach was sitting on the side and every time something bad was happening or every time, uh, I didn't have a good feeling on the corridor. I, I wasn't finding solutions. I would look at him. I would just look at him, look at him, keep looking at him and, and be like, you know, what's going on. Right, right. But what my coach did at the time was he basically every time I looked at him, he looked away <laugh> he looked, he looked away and he looked on the side or he looked down, but he just didn't give me attention. Speaker 1 00:31:25 And it was really like a case of, you know, almost a kid looking for attention and not getting what he wanted. So he didn't say a word. He didn't look at me and I was frustrated at the time. Right. But in the end I won the match, I won the match and then we talked and he said, you know, I did this on purpose to show you that you have the resources within your self and, and, and, you know, deepen your, in your core. Like you have those resources, you found, you found a way to, to win the match in the end, without my help. And if you want to win this tournament, you're gonna have to, you know, at times find the solutions on your own. And of course, I mean, I needed to play better after that and, and the upcoming matches, but that was really a moment where it stuck in, you know, it struck me that, um, in the end, once I'm on the court, I can't be looking for outside help and outside, uh, resources. I I'm there, I'm responsible and I'm strong enough that, uh, and I've worked hard enough. And with my coaches, before that I have the solutions within myself. Speaker 2 00:32:34 Were you kind of angry with him for doing that? <laugh> like kind of playing that little game with you. Is that the risky game to play? It was, Speaker 1 00:32:40 It was risky. It was risky. It was risky from him because it's not like it's something we said that we would do before. <laugh> and of course, I mean, it was an important match and all of a sudden that's what he felt like he needed to do, because I guess also at the time it was a little bit too much. Um, I was, uh, maybe looking at him or looking for answers outside a little bit too much, but it was gutsy. And, but I think it was, uh, the good lesson for me. Speaker 2 00:33:05 And I guess the point is that you succeeded and you did it, which is the, which is the key. Yeah. Um, so we should talk a little bit about your, kind of your health. You suffer from cardiac arrhythmia. Mm-hmm <affirmative> if I'm not mistaken that's right. Um, how, how is that too? Kind of, how does that affect your playing? I mean, if, if it does at all, Speaker 1 00:33:25 So I've actually suffered because I got an intervention past tense. Yeah. Past tense. I'm, I'm glad to say now that today, because, uh, it was a struggle, uh, for a lot of years. I mean, I first had it when I was seven or eight years old. Um, and then it would come from time to time doing different activities. Sometimes doing nothing, sometimes just swimming, of course, playing tennis or training, uh, a high intensity. I would sometimes get it. And we couldn't really find, define the reason why. And I actually tried an intervention when I was 12 or 13 years old. And, uh, the doctors couldn't find the issue, couldn't find where it was coming from. And then, uh, the big incident was that 2018 us open. I was playing my first grand slam match against Dennis and I actually had to withdraw in the third set because, uh, I started having yeah. Speaker 1 00:34:20 Cardiac arrhythmia on the court and there was no chance for me to, to keep playing. So that was a tough moment for my family and I, uh, and then we decided, okay, let's see what we can do. And, uh, we reached out to, um, heart surgeon, doctor that we already knew in Montreal. And, uh, at the end of that year in 2018, I, I went to do surgery again and I worked, uh, successfully. So, um oh, amazing. It was amazing. Uh, because then he, he said, okay, then we will, we hope and you have to go out there and try and see if, uh, nothing happens again. And now it's gonna be almost three years. And, uh, I haven't had anything since, so, um, it's quite amazing. Speaker 2 00:35:06 That's fantastic. Yeah. Amazing. Amazing. So that's, it is just something that you don't have to worry about at all anymore. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:35:11 No, I, no, it hasn't happened since, so it's great. Speaker 2 00:35:15 Oh, that's good. I mean, what's your kind of next goal as a tennis player. I mean, you know, there's a lot still to do. Yeah. You're still very early in your career, but what's the kind of big thing for you. What's, what's the achievement you kind of want next on your belt? Speaker 1 00:35:29 Uh, of course, uh, I mean, I want to win a title, um, and I've reached a lot seven finals, uh, which is great, you know, for my young career and, uh, the consistency that I've been able to have with my results is great, but I wanna be able to, you know, to reach that peak and just give myself a chance to, to get those opportunities again and to win a big title. Um, but I think the main focus is not just winning, you know, any title. I think, uh, the big thing is to, of course, it's gonna go from improvement and me becoming a better player, but in terms of, of results on paper, um, the, yeah, the big goal for me is to win, uh, you know, a masters in the years to come a grand slam. Um, you know, being in the top eight, um, playing the, you know, the top eight masters at the end of the year, these are, you know, achievements or results that I'm really look looking forward to do, or that I, that I'm really motivated to do so, but it starts with, uh, with consistency of work and, and results. Speaker 1 00:36:39 And then things will, will kind of unfold, uh, how I want to, if I'm able to do that. Speaker 2 00:36:46 Is there a specific tournament that you are most excited by? Like what, what's the, what's the kind of big one for you? Speaker 1 00:36:52 Well, I've always loved, uh, Wimbledon since the day I've been, uh, has such a history, such prestige to it. And, um, it's so unique because of the fact that in the end, we don't have a lot of tournaments on the grass anymore and to be able to, to play on grass courts, uh, that are so perfect and so beautiful. Yeah. Um, it's really, uh, an amazing tournament, uh, to play and it would be an amazing tournament to win one day. And then for me, for sure, tournament, that's close to my heart is the masters, uh, 1000 in, um, in Montreal. Um, course I, we do play also in Toronto, uh, which is amazing because I get to play at home, but the one in Montreal is really even closer to my heart because that's where I was born. That's where my family lives now. And that's where I've spent. Uh, a lot of my time, you know, growing up or when I was a teenager, I was training at that stadium, uh, every day. So winning there in front of, uh, the fans of my fans, of the fans, uh, from my hometown, um, you know, on home soil would be a dream come true. Speaker 2 00:38:05 I'm sure it will happen. I mean, is there a moment when you are kind of in a match and you get that kind of feeling where you are owning that you, you are owning it, you know, that you are in control and everything you're doing is working and every shot that you hit is perfect. And like, if that happens, how do you kind of, how do you know that it's happened? How do you get yourself to that point? Speaker 1 00:38:28 Well, I had a moment like this in practice earlier, so <laugh>, it was good. Um, playing practice matches and practicing and everything was going exactly how I wanted, you know, so really why is it? That's always, of course it's the best feeling because, uh, winning in the end is great, but sometimes you win and you didn't feel good on the court. Like you felt nervous or like that match at the us opened 2016 that I mentioned earlier. Um, those are matches that you end up winning, but you're not so happy with where your level is, but the first, the feeling of hitting, striking the ball, uh, nicely in a clean way, uh, aiming for a target and being able to, to hit it times after time, after time and serving well, that's an amazing feeling. And, uh, honestly, that's what you look for as a player is to enjoy your game also. I mean, uh, it's a game after all and when you're able to, to enjoy yourself and, and, and play well, uh, it's the, it's the best feeling or it's the most gratifying feeling I would say. Speaker 2 00:39:35 It's, it's really interesting that you are talking about the kind of hitting the ball nicely. I don't think I've ever heard of tennis players talk about that in the same kind of way, but obviously it's that kind of the ability to kind of follow through and get that beautiful shot. Is that the kind of, that's the epitome of everything that you are striving for that kind of perfect. Speaker 1 00:39:55 It is when you're able to. It's fascinating. Um, I mean the best players in our game, uh, yes, they're competitors winners, and they're strong physically, mentally, but they're first thing is they're amazing technically, and they're so consistent with the ball striking that they, that they hit. And, uh, it's kind of just this dopamine, um, feeling every time you hit it, like for, for a split second, uh, it's the, it's the best feeling for me as a, as a player it's like, uh, right. But when you don't hit a shot nicely, then again, it's like you get frustrated or you don't like it. Uh, yeah. But when you hit that shot well, and you strike it nicely and it hits the target exactly where, uh, you wanted it's, uh, it's the best feeling there is for us. Speaker 2 00:40:46 So that idea of frustration you do often see that, I mean, there are obvious, obvious examples of people that kind of epitomize that idea of frustration on the court. Um, but how do you overcome that feeling? Cause I imagine once that happens, it must be very easy for that to be a slippery slope. And for you to kind of go down from that point, how do you kind of boil yourself back up? Speaker 1 00:41:10 Well, I haven't perfected, uh, yet. Uh, it's the, it's, it's a, it's a constant work. Um, it's a constant work, uh, of being able to control more and more your emotions, your ideas, being able to play every point almost in the same way, uh, where, you know, you're able to, to refocus, um, before every point. And, uh, it's, it's a constant work really. So I would say in the past I've done well and I felt like I've improved and I've always had, uh, a pretty, uh, I would say cold ahead or I was pretty calm, uh, naturally, but, uh, it's not always easy when you start losing, let's say confidence on a shot during a match, or you start getting frustrated because you had chances and you missed them to be able to really stick in the present and not get frustrated from the past and anxious of the future, you know, and to be really in that, uh, specific zone of, of, of the present moment is, um, is a constant balance, you know, and of course, I don't think anybody has perfected it yet, but you always have to aim for that. You have to aim for it at least. I Speaker 2 00:42:28 Mean, it's, it's kind of interesting cuz that is mindfulness, right? It's like, you know, we'd suddenly talk about this much more in kind of wider society, but that's what everyone is kind of striving for to live in the moment. You know, and I think this, it feels like a real kind of drill down into that notion, which I mean, it's kind of, Speaker 1 00:42:47 That's really what it is and it's valid for many things in life, but uh, for us as players, it's, uh, even more because we're faced with the truth every time we're faced with the fact that, um, you know, somebody's gonna win, somebody's gonna lose and it's straight competition sometimes I think in a day to day life, these things are more hidden, um, because you can get away with it or you can decide, well, okay, today I'm not okay. I don't feel good. I'm not gonna do much. I'm gonna, you know, uh, stay at home and I'm gonna do what I need to do tomorrow. But when the day of the match comes, uh, you have to deal with, uh, however you feel you have to deal with your frustrations. You have to feel with your temper, your mood, whatever it is, and you have to do the best with it. Speaker 1 00:43:33 So I think this competition and this world, or tennis for me teaches me how to stay more and more in the present. And um, like I, I, I think I might have mentioned it earlier, but a phrase that I read that, you know, stuck with me is that in the end, where do we get frustration from is from the past, you know, we only get frustration. If you stay in the past, you're gonna be frustrated. And if you live in the future, you will be anxious. Right. Uh, so yeah, yeah. Kind of um, finding that middle ground is, uh, is something, uh, uh, I work on and something that, um, I always aim for Speaker 2 00:44:12 Is a skill for sure. I mean, moving on from tennis slightly. Um, so while I was preparing for this, I watched an interview with you and I think it was for, um, I, I can't actually remember what show it was, but you were wearing a very nice hounds tooth jacket, uh, and a black turtle next jumper. It was like a Canadian TV show. Yeah. Is FA is fashion kind of a, a thing for you? Like, I mean, tennis is traditionally a very stylish sport, right? Yeah. Particularly in, um, you know, in Wimbledon. Yeah. Do you, do you kind of care about that kind of thing? Speaker 1 00:44:40 I do. I do. Um, Speaker 2 00:44:42 That's why I like to Speaker 1 00:44:43 Hear, I like it. No, no, I really, I really like it. I mean, I like to, I'm kind of the opposite of the stereotype of, uh, a guy that doesn't like to shop or that doesn't like fashion. I, I really enjoy it. I like to shop for myself. I like to have, uh, nice clothes, uh, nice things for me. And I like to dress up nicely for occasions. Um, I would say that in the day to day I'm mostly conservative probably I would go with black trousers, uh, white shoes and, um, like, like, um, I don't know, white top or clear top, but I, I like to, to, to, to dress well or to, to wear unique, uh, uh, pieces or special things on, on, on certain occasions. Speaker 2 00:45:29 I mean, I guess lockdown then must have been a little bit depressing for you because there was no opportunity it Speaker 1 00:45:34 Up. Right. It was, it was, I mean, I I've I've shopped way less, which in a way was, was a good thing. <laugh> uh, and I've, yeah, I haven't been able to really dress out for any occasion, uh, in the last two years, uh, almost no one year and a half. Sorry. So, um, it's uh, yeah, I think lockdown, uh, hasn't been good for, for my fashion, uh, life <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:46:00 I don't think guys were for anyone just slippers, slippers and tracks of bottoms. Exactly. Speaker 1 00:46:04 So Speaker 2 00:46:05 It's often said that Nadal, um, no matter what the match situation never gives a point, but on your end, you decided to give points to this amazing initiative in Togo mm-hmm <affirmative>. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what you kind of where that came from and how it came about? Speaker 1 00:46:20 Well, I'm, I'm glad that it's in place. Uh, I've always, uh, dreamt of having something in place. Uh, if, you know, of course, if it was possible. And if I reached a point in my life career that I was able to, to do it, and especially, you know, in this way, being able to connect my tennis career and my desire to, to give opportunities, uh, to the ones that don't have it. Uh, so being able to connect that by giving $5, every point I win is a, is a great setup and it's a great thing, um, that I, that I love doing. And yeah, it, of course it gives I think, uh, a higher purpose and a higher meaning to, to my career, to every win I make to every point. I know that it's, uh, not only helping me, but it's helping, uh, a lot of kids out there, um, in Togo. Speaker 1 00:47:11 So, uh, I'm glad of, um, the way it's been, uh, it's happened. Uh, I didn't know exactly at the time or I, I knew always that I had this intention to, to do something of that type one day. And I have other projects in the future of having my own foundation doing projects in of course, different fields, different countries, uh, doing events, uh, to promote things that are close to my heart. So there's a lot of things that I will be able to do in the future, but in the meantime, um, I'm glad that, you know, this is in place and I haven't been able to, um, to visit the progress, uh, with my own eyes or to, to, to, to, to see, to, to be on the grounds since, uh, uh, I started the initiative when COVID started. So it hasn't been, uh, no, I haven't had an opportunity to go, but I'm looking forward to having a chance to actually see the, the progress in person. Speaker 2 00:48:11 Do you think, as a kind of public figure someone in the public eye, you have a responsibility these days to kind of give back, um, kind of in any way that you can, is that, is it the same for everyone? Is that something you just kind of have to do now? Speaker 1 00:48:26 Do you have a responsibility? No, I don't think you do, but when I see people do it, I, I think it's great. You know, I think it's a great thing. Uh, we're blessed and privileged to be in the position we're in now. Uh, of course there's hard work that comes with it or, and for some people, huge sacrifices and everyone has their story, you know, to, let's say to, to be in a very high position in, in society. But I think once you've, uh, arrived there, uh, I think sharing, uh, your success, I think brings even more pleasure and in the end and even more fulfillment than keeping it all for yourself. So that's kind of the idea that I have is like, uh, you know, to share my success. And then if by doing that, I inspire or I'm able to give, uh, a chance to others and they, then they are able to also succeed themselves. Then, uh, it's a nice cycle that, uh, you've created. That's how I like to, to believe, uh, that, uh, that's what I like to believe. And that's how I approach it. Speaker 2 00:49:37 Do you manage to go back to Togo much? The, how often do Speaker 1 00:49:41 You go? I don't, I've been there once. Not Speaker 2 00:49:43 At all. All Speaker 1 00:49:44 Right. Okay. Yeah, no, I've been there once because, uh, my dad left the country in the late nineties. Uh, he met my mom there and then they came back together to Canada and he didn't go for almost 10 years. Uh, he didn't go back for almost 10 years because, um, I mean, as first as he was coming to, to of course work, uh, he was focused on raising his family, uh, saving money and it was costly, you know, to, to travel there and to help everybody, the whole family over there. Uh, so my dad at first didn't get much opportunities. And then in the last year he's been a couple times he's been more and more, but, uh, I had one chance to go, but then since then you also have your schedule and you have your things to do. And, uh, you're not always able to, to, to find the time to, to travel, uh, to travel there. So, uh, but I hope to, to get a chance to go again soon. Speaker 2 00:50:40 Well, you've got plenty of time. <laugh> I Speaker 1 00:50:42 Do. I like to, I have, Speaker 2 00:50:45 If you only 20 <laugh>, if you do, you're only 20. I, when I was growing up watching Wimbledon, it was like, Pete, Sanus you grew up, I guess, with Fedra Nadal, Jovi. Yeah. Who, who were your, who were your like real idols when you were coming into the sport? Who were the people that you looked at? Like, oh my God, I just want to be, well, not be them, but you know, you were inspired by, Speaker 1 00:51:06 I think, uh, this is not very original, but fed and at all are of course the, the, the, the, the people that I looked up to, the player that I looked up to growing up, I mean, they were everywhere, uh, and all the finals winning all the big trophies and, um, they were amazing. I mean, also the rivalry that they had created amazing matches when we think back on the 2008 final Wimbledon, for example, uh, these are amazing moment for the sport to aspire kids like, like myself. So, um, uh, I always looked up to them, but I wouldn't say I was never a personality to idolize in a way where, um, I had, like, I would have like posters in my room or that I would like be dying for autographs or signatures at tournaments. I, I was just more enjoying their game whenever I had a chance to see it and enjoying their matches. Speaker 1 00:52:04 And then I also had somebody I looked up to was, um, a French player, Joel Wilfred SOGA, which I think, uh, when we talked earlier about, you know, diversity and having people that you can look up to and, and having that representation in your field, I think players like him really helped in a way, kids like me to, to have people on their screens that, you know, you can look alike and that you can really yeah. Identify yourself too. And also love this game, love this style. You know, he was always a very charismatic player with, um, with a powerful game and, and was putting on a show every time he played. So, um, I always loved, uh, watching, uh, Joe, Speaker 2 00:52:49 Well, we have one more question. So that works very well. Perfect. Um, I, I'm kind of intrigued because, you know, we, we have slightly touched on this, but for you, when is the moment a specific moment where you've had to kind of overcome your inner saboteur, that inner voice that is saying, this is not working I'm, I'm not worth this I'm failing. Like what, has there been a moment where you've had to really overcome that? And can you specify it or I dunno, is there is, yeah. Might be tricky to find, Speaker 1 00:53:19 Uh, there hasn't been, luckily for me there hasn't been, uh, many moments like this. I think, um, I've had, let's say tough weeks or tough couple of months where I wasn't winning as much. Um, but in the end, things came back, uh, like I wanted, I think with, uh, I think with work and with belief and with resilience, and I'm gonna focus on that word and emphasis that word because, uh, that's, I think something that was always very important for me during all my young career. So far and I think it's important for every player, but especially for me. And I think I was had a, a great capacity of being able to bounce back, you know, after a loss, after a tough moment, after a tough couple of weeks, months. And I think in the past, uh, I always believed a lot in my resilience to overcome, uh, you know, adversity and tough moments, uh, because there was times, uh, when I moved on from juniors to professionals or, uh, when I got injured, for example, and I twisted my knee and then I was couple of weeks out and then I had to come back and I wasn't winning so much, these were tough moments, but I think I had a very high, uh, resilience. Speaker 1 00:54:42 And I think, uh, it's a quality that, uh, and a trait of character that's, uh, really helped me a lot in, uh, in tougher moments. Speaker 2 00:54:51 I bet. I mean, on that note, we will have to bring this to a close, but it's been fantastic. Thank you to you. It's been great. Thank you so much for joining us at the edge. Yeah. Um, you, you are amazing and good luck with everything. Speaker 1 00:55:02 Thanks a lot. Yeah, it was nice talking to you as well. Thank you. Speaker 2 00:55:05 Yeah. Take care. Thank you for joining us at the edge. A podcast by tag Hoy. Don't forget to subscribe on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. The edge is also an online magazine. Go to magazine dot tag, hoy.com for more articles, interviews, and photo series that bring together our love of watches and our desire to push ourselves to the edge of our limits. I'm your host te van and BRCA until next time, keep an eye out. This is the edge.

Other Episodes