Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, Leads Youth Movement at the Miami Open – Smart Media Magazine

Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, Leads Youth Movement at the Miami Open

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The story of Juan Ponce de León searching for a fountain of youth in Florida may be apocryphal, but this week at the men’s event of the Miami Open, there seems to be something revitalizing in the water.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, an 18-year-old Canadian qualifier, is the youngest man to reach the semifinals in the tournament’s history. His compatriot and friend Denis Shapovalov, 19, will join him in the semifinals after beating the American Frances Tiafoe, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2, in a quarterfinal Thursday evening.

Auger-Aliassime, ranked 57th, booked his spot in the semifinals with a 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over 11th-seeded Borna Coric on Wednesday night. Coric, 22, was eight years younger than the next-oldest quarterfinalist, but still far more experienced than Auger-Aliassime, who is in the main draw of a Masters event for just the fifth time.

“Playing Borna, who’s been established for a few years now, I definitely didn’t expect to win,” Auger-Aliassime said, adding that he was especially surprised with how he was able to control the second set after a grueling opening set that lasted more than an hour.

The on-court flair extends to the normally rote postmatch rituals, too. Shapovalov celebrated a win in Indian Wells, Calif., by rapping several bars in his on-court interview. When Auger-Aliassime signs his initials on the TV camera lens after a win, it at first appears as if he is writing the name of a fraternity someone his age might be pledging: Gamma Lambda Lambda — “ΓΛΛ” — before striking through the letters to create a stylized “FAA.”

There is hope that this tournament is further evidence that reinforcements are finally ready to replenish the men’s tour. Tiafoe believes it’s already happening.

“I wouldn’t say we’re ‘Next Gen,’” Tiafoe said. “I think we’re definitely here, knocking on the door to do some good things.”

Auger-Aliassime will face seventh-seeded John Isner, 33, on Friday for a spot in the final. Auger-Aliassime’s record against top players is limited but spotless: he is 5-0 against top-20 opponents.

How Auger-Aliassime’s form will translate into Grand Slam tennis played over best-of-five sets is still an open question. At last year’s U.S. Open, his only main-draw appearance at a major, he retired in the third set of his first-round match against Shapovalov because of heart palpitations.

Federer, 37, remains the oldest player in the draw. He will play his quarterfinal match against Kevin Anderson, 32, on Thursday night.

Federer turned 19 the day Auger-Aliassime was born. Federer said he enjoyed seeing members of the young generation square off against one another, particularly savoring the fourth-round match between Shapovalov and Tsitsipas, which was decided in a third-set tiebreaker.

“I loved seeing them slug it out, and I’m sure they are going to have big matches down the road,” Federer said. “I like when they also have to play each other a little bit, because they don’t look across the net and see a guy ranked whatever it is. It’s just another guy they know from the juniors, and ‘I’m just going to beat you up now.’”

BARTY WINS In a women’s semifinal that was delayed by five hours because of intermittent rain on Thursday afternoon, 12th-seeded Ashleigh Barty reached the biggest final of her career, beating 21st-seeded Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3.

In the final, Barty will face fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who denied the No. 2 seed, Simona Halep, a win that would have returned her to the top world ranking. Pliskova won, 7-5, 6-1. Barty, 22, will make her debut in the WTA Top 10 on Monday.

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