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June 29, 2022
Tennis

Sam Aliassime: “A passion can be shared.”

Félix Auger-Aliassime needs no introduction. The superstar of Canadian tennis has already carved out a place for himself among the world elite. At the 2021 US Open, he became the first Canadian to compete in a singles semifinal since 1881. In November 2021, the Quebecer was the third-youngest Canadian to enter the ATP Top 10. He rose to a career-high ranking of World No. 9 at the 2022 ATP Cup when he outmaneuvered No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the final and gave Team Canada the win. As the Aliassime name keeps gaining momentum, the clan itself remains very humble. And that’s a core value for the family patriarch, Sam.

The elder Aliassime has been part of his son’s career from the very beginning but still makes sure to keep their tennis relationship as healthy as possible. He believes Félix should be a good person first and a champion second, and he’ll tell you that’s one of the keys to the young ace’s success. 

Photo: @Félixaliassime

Sam Aliassime was introduced to tennis in his native Togo, in western Africa. In 1996, at the age of 25, he immigrated to Canada. It was at the Académie Hérisset-Bordeleau in Québec, where his father worked, that Félix first picked up a racquet. Sam coached his son until he was 12 years old and, in 2018, took the reins of the club, which is now the Aliassime Tennis Academy.

With the National Bank Open presented by Rogers right around the corner, we sat down with Sam for a conversation about how important values are to Félix and the father-son passion for tennis they share. 

Tennis Canada (TC) – What makes you especially proud to be Félix’s dad? 

“Félix is someone who’s extremely generous and humble, and that’s helped him be successful.”

– Sam Aliassime

Sam Aliassime (SA) – I’m proud of the person he’s become. More than anything, his mother and I always wanted to instill good values in him. It was important to us that he have a very solid foundation. If he’d become a great tennis player but got out of line on and off the court, I certainly wouldn’t feel as proud. Félix is someone who’s extremely generous and humble, and that’s helped him be successful. 

(TC) – How did his tennis career—and your contribution to it—shape your father-son relationship? What makes it special or unique? 

(SA) – I always had an excellent relationship with Félix and still do today. Of course, we connect through our shared passion and our journey together. 

I’d describe my role on Félix’s team today as one of continuity. After all, I’m the person who knows him best. My role as a father and the experience that comes with age enable me to keep our goals in mind and put things into perspective in the more challenging times. It’s my job to help him not be stressed and stay calm.

(TC) – As a parent, what’s it like watching your son from the stands (or from the edge of your seat in your living room!) at the world’s leading tournaments? 

(SA) – I’m very proud of all he’s accomplished, and I know he’s just getting started. But again, I’m most proud of how he’s able—even at his age—to let his values dictate his actions. I think that’s something we both do. That’s why Félix has always been very understanding and respectful when I miss one of his tournaments because of the work I do with the kids at my academy. He understands that he has his career and I have mine. One of the things we enjoy most in life is giving back. That’s what Félix is doing through his humanitarian work in Africa and his support for the development of young players here.

Photo: @Félixaliassime

(TC) – What are some of your family memories from the Canadian tournaments? 

“He called me afterwards and told me that he stopped complaining and started playing to his true ability after I’d gone.”

– Sam Aliassime

(SA) – Of course, we had some tense moments. I especially remember a U14 Canadian championship in Ontario. Félix was part of the team from Québec and was with coaches from here, but I decided to drive up to see him play. In his first match, Félix kept complaining on the court. I didn’t like his attitude at all, and he knew it. I left in the middle of the match. He called me afterwards and told me that he stopped complaining and started playing to his true ability after I’d gone. So, he’d become aware of his negative attitude and how it affected his game. I went back to Ontario for the rest of the tournament. He played some good matches and ended up losing to Denis Shapovalov in the final. There are lots of stories like that one, and those are moments we both learned from. 

(TC) – How is this year’s NBO different from Félix’s first? 

“…he’ll approach the tournament one match at a time like he always does.”

– Sam Aliassime

(SA) – Félix will certainly arrive in Montréal with more confidence. He’s in the Top 10 now and has won an ATP title, so he knows he can go far in Montréal and maybe even go all the way. But nothing can be taken for granted and every match will be tough, so he’ll approach the tournament one match at a time like he always does.

(TC) – Do you have any advice for parents who are involved in their child’s passion?  

“I just wanted to educate my son so he would grow up to be a good person.”

– Sam Aliassime

(SA) – A passion can be shared. I’ve shared my passion for tennis with Félix since he was a boy, and it brought us together on many levels. Even so, my idea, or my goal, was never to train a tennis champion. I just wanted to educate my son so he would grow up to be a good person. I still use that approach today with my children and with the young players I coach at my academy. I teach them rigour, hard work and excellence, of course, but it should always be fun! 

Photo: @Félixaliassime

Want to catch Félix and Sam in action this summer at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers? Buy your tickets here. 

This year, IGA Stadium in Parc Jarry will host the ATP tournament from August 5 to 14. See your favourite players go head-to-head and experience Canada’s ultimate tennis event!  

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