Auger-Aliassime Speaks Out On Need For Equality

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Add Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada to the growing list of black tennis players and tennis players of color using social media platforms to protest racial injustice. As a child of a mixed-race family growing up in Quebec City, the capital city of the Canadian province of Quebec, Auger-Aliassime has been subject to racism.

“I truly hope recent events will lead us steps closer to equal treatment around the world 🙏🏽,” Auger-Aliassime, 19, said in a five-minute heartfelt video he posted Sunday on Instagram.

The 20th-ranked NextGen ATP rising star, whose father is from Togo and mother is French Canadian, not only wanted to check in with his fans – his Instagram page has 212,000 followers – but also to speak out against racial injustice.

“Hi everyone. I hope you are well and safe and healthy,” Auger-Aliassime began. “You know, with everything that’s been going on lately in the States with the George Floyd incident – killing – there’s been a lot of talking. I just felt like I wanted to share a thought, share what I thought about this, and maybe react and encourage people to talk about and be aware. 

“As many of you know, I was raised from a French Canadian mom and African father. So, I guess I have experienced both worlds. I grew up in a calm neighborhood in Quebec City, Canada. I feel like I was privileged to get freedom of speech and the same opportunities as everyone. So, that is why I think it makes me sad that every time I see people in the world that don’t get that same freedom – those same opportunities that I had. That’s why I think this has to change so everyone gets equal opportunities and it doesn’t care what color of skin you are so long as you get the same opportunities.”

Auger-Aliassime shared a personal story of racism his family has had to deal with. He described an incident in which his father, who owns a Quebec City apartment building, was pulled over by a white Canadian police officer in that neighborhood simply because he was driving an expensive Mercedes automobile. “It’s pretty odd or pretty rare to see a person of color driving this type of vehicle in the neighborhood,” the police officer, who pulled him over, said, according to Auger-Aliassime’s recollection of the incident. “So, basically, the police officer told my dad that being an African black man and driving a Mercedes is subject to being pulled over.” 

The younger Auger-Aliassime went on to say that the incident between his father and the police didn’t turn violent and “everything ended peacefully,” but … “it just proves that these kinds of events create a sense of frustration that we’ve seen lately. … People need to be aware that it’s not just happening to others; it’s happening to their teachers, their coaches and everyone.

“We’ve come a long way but we still have a very long way to go to reach equality. … Police officers, teachers, professors and doctors should lead by example and should not have preconceived notions and stereotypes in terms of skin color and sexism. They should look at all people in the same way.”

Auger-Aliassime concluded by saying: “We’re all human beings. … I hope change will happen and laws will be put in place. … I pray things will get better and everything happening (next door to Canada) will end peacefully and everyone will just be loved.”

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Behind The Racquet – Anastasia Potapova

In a little more than two years, Anastasia Potapova went from being ranked outside the Top 200 to her current ranking of No. 84. The 19-year-old native of Saratov, Russia, reached a career-high of 64th last July. She’s 103-65 since joining the WTA Tour in 2018. Last year, Potapova reached the final of two events – Moscow (River Cup) and Tashkent.

In a first-person essay that Potapova wrote last September for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet, she admitted: “Tennis doesn’t allow much time to enjoy. For me, it’s like when you get hungrier after eating a little food, it’s the same for me in tennis.

“If I have a great result it gives me the power to want more or do even better. I never stop or relax. Even if I get to the top, I wouldn’t want to lose my position. All the girls are out to steal your spot.”

Potapova is 11-6 during this abbreviated season and has reached the quarterfinals in each of her last three tournaments, at St. Petersburg, Acapulco and Monterrey.

“You have to continue working,” Potapova wrote, “because very little of it is based on luck. No one ‘deserves’ anything. It gets extremely tough when you’re playing tournaments week after week and they go right into each other. Sometimes you just need a few days to breathe and refresh the mind. If you want to do your best you have got to enjoy your work. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, playing tennis, business or whatever. If you love your job, you’re going to achieve more than you ever thought.”

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“It’s a nonstop battle. When you begin playing Juniors, you’re starting from the bottom. I worked my way to the top which made me really happy but I immediately realized I had to start it all over again. As soon as your junior career ends you have to begin to do the same thing as a professional. It’s not easy coming in playing girls older and more experienced than me. Physically and mentally, to go from constant success to losing early every week is difficult. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, whether I’m playing tennis, in school or any other activity, I want them to go as planned, because I’m super competitive. I thankfully have an incredible team by my side that helped me. I’m also so stubborn. If I say yes to something I will do whatever it takes to get what I want. I never thought that I should be playing another sport. I just took my chance with tennis and worked everyday to achieve my dream. I never look forward, I always just live in the moment with what I have now. When I started playing pro tennis, reaching top 100 for even a day was a dream. I was happy for about one week but then I was trying to set up new goals. After getting into the top 100 you begin to realize that it’s actually the beginning of the journey to the top 10. Tennis doesn’t allow much time to enjoy. For me, it’s like when you get hungrier after eating a little food, it’s the same for me in tennis. If I have a great result it gives me the power to want more or do even better. I never stop or relax. Even if I get to the top, I wouldn’t want to lose my position. All the girls are out to steal your spot. You have to continue working, because very little of it is based on luck. No one ‘deserves’ anything. It gets extremely tough when you’re playing tournaments week after week and they go right into each other. Sometimes you just need a few days to breathe and refresh the mind. If you want to do your best you have got to enjoy your work. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, playing tennis, business or whatever. If you love your job, you’re going to achieve more than you ever thought.” -@anapotapovaa

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What they’re saying

• American Frances Tiafoe interviewed by CNN on his “Racquets Down, Hands Up” video:

“With everything going on, I mean, it was pretty easy to want to create a video now,” said the 81st-ranked Tiafoe. “I was nervous contacting them. Your don’t want to come off as, you know, everyone is asking them to do things. It was unbelievable, and I’m happy to see everybody participated.

“If you’re not coming together right now and trying to speak out and trying to really get good quality messages out, I don’t think there ever will be a time.

• American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who has been on the WTA player council, interviewed by New York Times tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey on the possibility of playing both the Western & Southern Open and the US Open back to back in New York City this summer:

“I appreciate that everyone is going outside the box to think of solutions in these circumstances. We don’t really have anything in the rule books for this situation. Putting two big tournaments in the same place is definitely on the right track because it definitely makes it a bit easier to control some things. …

“I really think if we can pull this off in New York after all that has happened, it will totally be a big inspiration.”

What they’re writing

Tumaini Carayol, The Guardian of London tennis writer, from “Gauff and Osaka should not be discouraged from their protests”:

As Osaka continues to find her voice, both politically and personally, it is also not hard to imagine that attending rallies protesting against police brutality is not appetising to some while she is incessantly marketed as the biracial player who crosses cultures and can appeal to everyone. A simple wish is that both Gauff and Osaka continue to do what they have done so well in their young careers: saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

What they’re sharing on social media

Sloane Stephens / The world will say to you …

Billie Jean King /  On Pride Month …

Stefanos Tsitsipas / Human equality is my religion …