For the second year running the BNP Paribas Open is the launch pad for the career of a new young star. Last year Naomi Osaka won her first WTA Tour title here and then went on to lift two of the next three Grand Slams in a run that saw her ascend to the world No.1 spot
Twelve months on it is the exciting young Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime who has captured the attention of the desert crowd. This young man has talent to burn.
After straightforward victories against Cameron Norrie and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first two rounds, Auger-Aliassime faced a stern test today when he took on Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the intimate atmosphere of Stadium 2.
Unlike Norrie and Tsitsipas, Nishioka was able to cope with the young Canadian’s powerful first serve, and he chased down many of his heavy groundstrokes, too.
The result was a compelling spectacle, with the Japanese player surging to a 5-1 final set lead before Auger-Aliassime battled back to force a tie-break.
The eighteen-year old Canadian player took what looked like a decisive 5-3 lead but then his energy and inspiration ran out and it was Nishioka who closed out a 6-7(2) 6-3 7-6(5) win. The Japanese player went through to the next round, but it is Felix Auger-Aliassime who will surely make tennis headlines in the years to come.
Elsewhere seeds continued to tumble, with Germany’s much-fancied Sascha Zverez losing 6-3 6-1to fellow countryman Jan Lennard Struff.