From the Qs to the QFs for FAA (video)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 event still seemed like a big leap just a few weeks ago in Indian Wells.

But it is now a reality for Félix Auger-Aliassime.

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Six victories, including two in the qualifying, and the 18-year-old Canadian is into the final eight at the Miami Open.

And there might be two Canadian teens into the quarters.

No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov is to play No.  8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a night match.

Auger-Aliassime defeated an erratic Nikoloz Basilashvili, 7-6 (4), 6-4 to advance to a meeting with No. 11 seed  Borna Coric on Wednesday.

“With my confidence rising, it’s allowed me to play well on the important points, to tighten up my game when required. Those are lessons that have served me well over the last few weeks. They come with confidence, with matches,” Auger-Aliassime said. But again, a bit like the match against Hubert (Hurkacz) , it sort of going his way in the first set, but I found a way through it, and it went my way in the second.”

Here are some shots of the gamut of emotions the young Canadian went through in posting this milestone win.

First-set firepower fades vs. FAA

Basilashvili, the No. 17, began the match on fire. There were groundstrokes he was hitting so hard, Auger-Aliassime actually bounced a couple of them off the court close to him as he attempted to return them.

FAA
There was a LOT going on, on the Grandstand Tuesday: ringing phones, crying babies, sudden crashing noises, the sun on one end – and a lot of emotion from FAA. But the tennis was pretty serene. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The Canadian was getting through his service games. But at 5-5, he shanked two balls in a row from 30-all to get broken. Then, it was Basilashvili who flinched when he served for the set.

In the tiebreak, after an early mini-break, Auger-Aliassime dropped a couple of double faults. And then Basilashvili responded at 4-5 with one of his own.

First set to the Canadian, who opened the second set with a break of serve as Basilashvili double-faulted twice more.

Basilashvili had eight double faults for the match. But it felt like more, because they came a couple at a time, and at key times.

At this point, the 27-year-old from Georgia wasn’t serving as hard, trying to get his first delivery in. His groundstrokes didn’t have nearly the same sting as they had at the start of the match.

Meanwhile – and in stark contrast to his rather stoic opponent – Auger-Aliassime was uncharacteristically demonstrative and emotional by his recent standards.

He had been a kid who constantly looked over at his coaches during the juniors and during the first blush of his pro career. But recently, he had largely cut down on that. And it’s probably no coincidence that with that greater sense of ownership of his own game, have come some breakthrough results.

Tuesday against Basilashvili, though, he looked over a lot. He talked, a lot. It made for some great reaction shots. But only in that period early in the second set during which he went up 3-1 did he appear serene.

The tennis, though, was serene almost throughout.

Here’s some of what he said after the match.

FAA and the “Youngest Ever” numbers

Auger-Aliassime is the youngest player to make the Miami Open quarterfinals since Andy Roddick in 2001. (We’ll note, just to make the still-young Roddick feel a little creaky, that Auger-Aliassime wasn’t quite eight months old at the time).

If he can defeat Coric and make the semifinals, he would be the third-youngest player to accomplish that at a Masters 1000 event. 

FAAWho was younger? His friend Shapovalov, when he did it at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in 2017.

The other was Michael Chang, who made the semifinals – also at the Rogers Cup – in Toronto in 1990 (the first year of the Masters formats). Chang ended up winning the tournament.

As it was, this was the first time there was more than one teenager into the fourth round in Miami since 2007.

Three teens made it that year. You might remember them: Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

It remains to be seen whether this dynamic Canadian teen duo have those kinds of careers ahead of them. So much still to be determined. But this tournament feels like a huge step on that journey, somehow.

The victory moves Auger-Aliassime up to No. 41 in the live rankings, pending all the results from this week. Another win could jump him as much as 10 more spots. 

The match against Coric will be the late evening match Wednesday, not before 9 p.m.

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