Despite excellent runs by the teenage fraternity from Canada, currently leading the NextGen pack, they were unable to topple the elder statesmen of the game in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters at the Hard Rock Stadium.
But once I got each set back on serve today, I felt very confident that if it continued on into a tie-break, that I would have a chance to win John Isner
The two teenagers, Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18 and Denis Shapovalov, 19, found the more experienced John Isner, 33 and Roger Federer, 37, were too great a hurdle for them to clear.
The Isner/Auger-Aliassime match was the first to be decided with the defending champion asserting his powerful serve to the discomfiture of his young opponent.
But it has to be said the young Canadian has grit for he found a way of reading the big serve and broke the 6’10” American only for his own serve to suddenly fall apart when serving for the set, as he delivered three double faults to allow Isner back, who then snatched the set on the tiebreak.
Auger-Aliassime broke Isner again in the second and once again had the chance to serve out the set only for it to fail again only for another double fault handing it back.
Again, Isner gabbed his chance, forced a tiebreak and swept through to deliver a 7-6(3) 7-6(4) defeat on the teenager.
“Today was a little bit of a different way of getting there with my opponent serving for each set,” Isner said. “But once I got each set back on serve today, I felt very confident that if it continued on into a tie-break, that I would have a chance to win.”
Isner has now won 11 straight matches in Miami and incredibly nine of the 10 sets he’s played this week have gone to a tiebreaker. And the one that didn’t was 7-5!
It’s Isner’s fifth career Masters final while Auger-Aliassime, who was the youngest to ever play in the Miami semi-finals, has definitely made his mark.
“I just felt like, I don’t know, the nerves got to me a little,” Auger-Aliassime, who had come through qualifying, said after his first loss in six matches with a Top 20 player. “I wasn’t able to do like all the other matches and just focus on what I had to do, and it really got to me too hard.
“It’s like I caught a virus or something. I don’t know. I couldn’t put a second serve anymore,” he said. “Even the first serve, if you put it in, you don’t have to hit the second serve. Yeah, that’s just very tough to swallow.”
In contrast the evening match, a much-anticipated clash between Federer and Shapovalov, failed to live up to expectations with the Swiss Maestro inflicting a 6-2 6-4 loss on the teenager.
Once Federer found his rhythm he dominated his young opponent who prior to the match, had revealed it was a dream of his to play the great Swiss, his hero.
“I enjoyed it. I think I played very well. I had to. Because I think when you let Denis play, he’s got some serious power, and he gets rhythm going. He can really put you in uncomfortable situations,” Federer said after reaching his 5th Miami final and 50th Masters final. “So I think I did well, and I’m very happy how I played.”
Shapovalov, who turns 20 next month, said: “It’s surreal, being on the court against him. Obviously I wasn’t trying to focus on the fact that it’s Roger on the other side. I was just trying to play as good as I can, and he did a good job today. He played an excellent match. I wasn’t able to kind of stay at his level. I’m just going to try to learn from this and move forward.”