ISNER VS. AUGER-ALIASSIME PREVIEW: FAST SERVES AND FAST SUCCESS
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — When John Isner was 18 years old, he was still getting familiar with his new home away from home. That home wasn’t the whirlwind of the ATP Tour like most successful tennis stars at 18 — instead, it was a college town about an hour-and-a-half outside of Atlanta, GA, called Athens. Home to the University of Georgia, it is where Isner would spend the next four years of his life learning, growing, and discovering that his love for playing tennis could one day be how he would make his living.
Contrast that with Felix Auger-Aliassime, who on Friday will play in the semifinals of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú. Raised in a quaint suburb outside of Quebec City, Auger-Aliassime has known that tennis is his calling for a long time now — though it is decidedly clearer after his historic run in Miami that it will be a calling for a lifetime, not just one of many young players whose dreams never materialized.
Isner, when he was 32, won the biggest title of his career by claiming the Miami Open in 2018. Auger-Aliassime, at 18 now, is the youngest semifinalist in the tournament’s history. Both followed very different paths to this moment, but they will meet on Friday afternoon with a spot in the final on the line.
No. 7 seed Isner, with a career-high ranking of No. 8 in the world, had the best run of his life undoubtedly in the past 16 months. He lifted the Butch Buchholz trophy in March, returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2012, and reached his first career Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in July — oh, not to mention he got married at the end of 2017 and welcomed a daughter in September 2018.
He has publicly doubted his ability to defend his title in Miami, however, because he has only won one Masters 1000 trophy in his lengthy career and surely he isn’t going to win another so soon at the same place he picked up his first.
Well, the 6’11” American has yet to drop a set in the fortnight, winning seven of eight sets thus far in tiebreaks. He has remained as resilient and focused as ever, all without the added pressure of needing that first big win. With that off his shoulders, who knows what he could accomplish.
The Canadian youngster across from him will also be playing with zero expectations. How can it get any better than a Miami Open semifinal at 18?
Well, a Miami Open final — or even a title.
“I think it just shows that I’m doing good things,” Auger-Aliassime said of his fast success. “I’m on the right track… I think I’m seeing the long term, and right now I’m just enjoying, you know, enjoying every day, enjoying every match, because you never know what’s gonna happen next. I’m really enjoying myself.”
As fun and exciting as Friday’s match will be for the qualifier, meaning he has been on court for three more matches than his opponent has, he knows that standing in front of Isner and his fearsome serve will take something next level.
“Obviously I think maybe I’ll have to maybe adjust my return position,” Auger-Aliassime explained, as Isner’s serves regularly come in at speeds approaching 140 miles per hour.
Their different paths have brought them here, to the semifinals of the 2019 Miami Open. One will be serving fast while the other is rising fast. Isner’s power will go up against Auger-Aliassime’s youth. The winner — those who are there to see it happen.
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