TOKYO (Reuters) – Based on the current standings, the first-round clash between Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime and Britain’s Andy Murray at the Tokyo Olympics appears to be a lag.
Auger-Aliassime, 20, is ranked 15th in the world and has just played a quarter-final at Wimbledon while Murray dropped out of the top 100 after struggling to overcome injuries for the past two years.
But when it comes to the Olympics, Murray is a different beast and the Canadian has a very clear idea of the challenge he will face against the Scotsman, who won singles gold in Rio and London.
“It’s a big challenge. I wish it had come a little deeper in the draw maybe, but that’s how it is,” Auger-Aliassime said after his training session at Ariake Tennis Park Thursday night.
“Andy is a great champion of our sport, especially at the Games.
“I’m going to expect the best of him again this week and I will also try to do my best. It will be an exciting game, but I hope I get out of it.”
Auger-Aliassime won in straight sets at last year’s US Open against the 34-year-old Scotsman, who is still struggling to get back in shape after a second hip operation.
He said he had “vivid memories” of watching at home when Murray won his second straight gold medal in Rio and believes his biggest challenge will be dealing with Murray’s mental toughness.
“One of his great strengths is his resilience,” Auger-Aliassime said of the three-time Grand Slam winner.
“You just know it won’t be over until the last point. He can always come back. He has shown great strength throughout his career so he’s never going to lose it.
“Even though in 2016 he finished number one. He was probably in his prime. It’s no lie to say he’s a different player today. But he’s still the same Andy, right? “
Some of the biggest names in the sport, including Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, have skipped the Tokyo Games, which have been delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Top ranked Novak Djokovic, the other member of tennis ‘Big Three’ who are all tied in 20 Grand Slam tournaments each, traveled to Tokyo.
“Grand Slam tournaments are a huge thing for us that happen every year,” said Auger-Aliassime.
“It’s a shame that Andy Murray won the gold medal twice and I feel like we forget that.
“We’re talking about the ‘Big Three,’ the 20 Grand Slams they all have now, and we’re talking about their gold medals every four years as the Olympics approach.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Peter Rutherford)