FELIX AUGER-ALIASSIME: FROM QUALIFIER TO MIAMI OPEN SEMIFINALIST
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — Continuing his miraculous run, qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime has secured a spot in the semifinals of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itau. The 18-year-old defeated No. 11 seed Borna Coric late Wednesday night to advance, upsetting the Croatian to win, 7-6(3), 6-2.
A product of Tennis Canada’s National Tennis Centre, Auger-Aliassime joins the ranks of young Canadian players who are flocking to the top of the game — Bianca Andreescu and Denis Shapovalov among them. Auger-Aliassime scored his first major upset at Indian Wells two weeks ago, shocking 2019 Australian Open semifinalist and fellow NextGen star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round. Who knew that was setting the stage for an even bigger run for the Quebec native?
“It puts a lot of belief in tennis in Canada,” Auger-Aliassime told the press afterwards. “I think all the Canadian players from the young kids to Denis and Bianca and I, there is a lot of belief right now, so it’s great to see.”
The Montreal-born, Quebec City-raised player relied heavily on belief as the match was a thrilling draw throughout the entire first set, with exhilarating baseline rallies exchanged between the two young righties — often dictated by the younger Auger-Aliassime. A trade of breaks kept the two on serve until the first set tiebreak, when the technically-sound game of Borna Coric unraveled. He double faulted to give the mini break to Auger-Aliassime, who did not look back and was now half of the way to his first Masters 1000 semifinal.
“I think I’m really serving well,” said Auger-Aliassime when asked about his performances recently in tiebreaks, “so I think it’s putting pressure on them. Seeing he double-faulted once in a tiebreak and missed a couple of groundstrokes that maybe he wouldn’t normally.”
The second set, Coric’s problems only magnified. Auger-Aliassime’s power gave the 22-year-old fits and he racked up 38 unforced errors to only 16 winners, incredibly uncharacteristic of Coric and making it impossible for him to win. Auger-Aliassime was even surprised out how he opened up the match.
“I expected more, a set like in the first. But the second really surprised me. I felt like I had margin over him, had a bit of an edge. I just felt really comfortable out there from the first balls.”
Being comfortable will be a blessing when he plays in his semifinal on Friday, because his opponent is looking might comfortable as well. Auger-Aliassime will take on No. 7 seed and defending champion John Isner, who has managed to recreate his run to the title in 2018 thus far and hasn’t dropped a set yet in 2019.
On playing Isner, Auger-Aliassime said, “Obviously I think maybe I’ll have to adjust my return position,” in reference to Isner’s big serve. “From there, you know, just focus on myself, what I have to do first, and then figure out a way to break him.”
If Auger-Aliassime can find a way to consistently pressure and break Isner’s often-impregnable serve to reach the Miami Open final, the tennis world should be on alert for this kid from Quebec who wasn’t even born at the turn of the century — if it isn’t on alert already.