Competing at only his fifth Masters 1000 tournament in a career, an 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime had to qualify for the main draw and start from the rock bottom at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. That was hardly an obstacle for one of the most talented youngsters in the world, notching seven triumphs so far in Florida to reach the semi-final!
In the quarter-final clash, Felix took down the 11th seed Borna Coric 7-6(3) 6-2 in an hour and 48 minutes to become the third youngest Masters 1000 semi-finalist after his compatriot Denis Shapovalov and Michael Chang, improving his score over the rivals from the top-20 to 5-0!
Also, Auger-Aliassime is the youngest Miami semi-finalist, taking that honor from great Rafael Nadal and becoming the first teenager in the last four in Miami since 2007 when Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray fought against each other for the place in the final, just before turning 20.
Serving at 74% in arguably his most important match in a career so far, the Montreal native played well on both the first and second serve, facing two break points and getting broken only once to mount the pressure on the other side of the net, forcing Borna to deliver the similar numbers to stay in contention.
That never happened and the Croat dropped more than 40% of the points behind the initial shot, suffering three breaks of serve and propelling the young opponent into the last four where he will face the defending champion John Isner.
Holding his nerves like a true champion, Felix fired 25 winners and 25 unforced errors, dominating with his forehand and beating the rival's 16-38 ratio, drawing almost 20 errors from Borna from each wing! The Canadian had the advantage in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to forge the lead that carried him towards the finish line, playing smart and mature tennis to grab another huge scalp and continue the title chase.
It was important for Felix to make the best possible start and he certainly did that, delivering three easy holds and breaking Borna at 15 after a deep return in game six to open a 4-2 gap. In his only loose moment of the match, Auger-Aliassime gave a break back in the very next game when his forehand landed miles away from the court, keeping Borna in the set and wasting a set point at 5-4 on the return in the game with seven deuces!
Coric fended off that set point with a service winner and created a break chance of his own in the following game, denied by a serve&volley combo from Felix who won all five points on serve in the tie break, going 4-2 up when Borna hit a double fault and securing the opener after a backhand error from the Croat at 6-3.
Carried by this momentum, Auger-Aliassime broke at the start of the second set thanks to another fundamental mistake from Borna who never regained the composure, netting a forehand in game three to fall further behind and give the youngster a considerable advantage.
The Croat saved two match points on serve in the seventh game although that was all we saw from him as Felix held at 15 in the next game to wrap up a fantastic win and write new pages of tennis history again.