The veterans once again for the better of the youngsters as thirty-somethings Roger Federer and John Isner advanced to the finals in Miami after giving lessons to Canadian teens Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov in the semifinals Friday.
Isner was up first during the day and the defending champion started out the match cracking ace after ace against the 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime who was getting his first taste of the American’s massive serve.
But the Canadian finally got a read on it to jump out to a break lead. However, with all the momentum going his was, he gagged serving out the first set at 5-3, serving three double faults and keeping Isner alive. And of course Isner took advantage, forced the breaker and stole the set.
A deflated-looking Auger-Aliassime was hanging on in the second, but out of nowhere grabbed another break and once again had the chance to serve out the set. Yet the second attempt failed as well as, thanks to another double fault, Isner got back on serve, tiebreaker, match. Rinse, repeat.
“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.
It’s Isner’s fifth career Masters final while Auger-Aliassime, who was the youngest to ever play in the Miami semifinals, will certainly be back.
“I just felt like, I don’t know, the nerves got to me a little,” said Auger-Aliassime 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 the evening, a much-anticipated clash between Federer and Shapovalov turned out to be a dud as the Swiss dominated 6-2, 6-4.
After a lengthy opening game which saw Shapovalov hold saving five break points, it seemed like match would be tight. But Federer found his rytym on his serve early and dominated off the baseline from both wings.
“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. “So I think I did well, and I’m very happy how I played.”
Shapovalov, who turns 20 next month, called it a dream to play Federer, but the match Friday night was more of a nightmare.
“It’s surreal, being on the court against him,” Shapovalov said. “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.”
The 37-year-old Federer is into a record 50th career Masters finals, 5th in Miami, where defending champion Isner awaits. Federer has won five of seven meetings against the American.
“I honestly love big servers, to watch them, [to see] if they’re going to ace every second or third point. For me, that’s exciting because it’s like a penalty shootout in [football], it’s just in tennis,” Federer told ESPN. “I’ll be the goalie on Sunday. I’ll try my very best. I’ll try to get as many balls back as possible.”
Isner will try complete the biggest title defense of his career on Sunday.
“I said in press before the tournament that chances are I’m not going to defend it, because I have only won one of these in my whole career,” Isner said. “But now I’m one match away, so hopefully I can eat those words. I have been doing it so far.”
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