Three time champion Roger Federer and defending champion John Isner have been joined by two NextGen stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada in the semi finals of the second ATP 1000 event of the year at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
In the first semi-final to be played on Friday, the 2018 champion John Isner of the U.S.A. takes on Felix Auger-Aliassime, while the 2005-06 and 2017 champion Roger Federer of Switzerland plays Denis Shapovalov.
The third seeded Swiss who has attained the Sunshine double in Indian Wells and Miami thrice was beaten by the Austrian Dominic Thiem after coming within two points of winning a sixth title in Indian Wells, was completely ruthless in his quarter-final win against the South African Kevin Anderson beating the sixth seed 6-0,6-4.
Anderson who had dropped serve only three times out of 37 in three matches against the Spaniard Jaime Munar, Joao Sousa of Portugal and Jordan Thompson of Australia, dropped serve thrice in the opening set to be bageled 0-6. Federer landed only 38% first serves in the opening set and went 2-0 up in the second set before Anderson held serve for the first time at the fifth attempt.
Anderson fought back to level at 3-3 breaking the Swiss for the only time in the match. Federer would break again in a lengthy ninth game lasting 14 minutes before the fifth ranked Federer sealed the match in the tenth game to enter the last four stage for the 65th time in his illustrious career. Federer has won 27 titles and is third behind Rafael Nadal (33) and Novak Djokovic (32).
On a rain interrupted day the match between the two NextGen stars, 19 year old left handed Shapovalov and the 21 year American Frances Tiafoe was moved to the grandstand court while Federer and Anderson battled on Stadium court, the 20th seeded Shapovalov rallied after dropping the first set in a tie-break to set up a meeting against the 37 year old Federer who had turned professional a year before Shapovalov was born in April 1999.
After losing a closely contested first set in a tie-break which Tiafoe won 7-5, Shapovalov went up by two breaks of serve to lead 5-1, but the American fought back to force Shapovalov to serve out the set for the second time in asking which the Canadian won 6-4.
In the third set Shapovalov was made to struggle in his first service game but then his dominant forehand propelled him to his third Master’s series semi-final as he took the match 6-7(5),6-4,6-2 in two hours and fifteen minutes.
Shapovalov’s previous two last four finish came in Montreal Canada in 2017 and at the Madrid Master’s on clay in 2018. Tiafoe had lost five of his last six matches after reaching his maiden quarter-final in a grand slam at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The defending champion John Isner is the lone American in the semi-final as he ousted the giant killing Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(1),7-6(5). The 22nd seeded Bautista Agut had upset the six time Miami champion Novak Djokovic in the round of sixteen which was his second win over the World number one ranked Serb. Earlier in January, the Spaniard had upset the top seeded Djokovic enroute to his title in Doha, Qatar.
Isner fired 24 aces and saved the lone break point he faced. Agut, served only three aces but also saved all three break points to force a tie-break in both the sets. Isner won 80 points while the Spaniard won 77 points in the one hour and forty five minutes match on Wednesday. Very little separated the two but Isner was decisive in both the tie-breaks.
He now takes on the exciting 18 year old qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime who upset the 11th seeded Croat Borna Coric 7-6(3),6-2. Both players dropped serve once in each set, but the 57th ranked from Canada raced away with the second set with two breaks of serve against the 22 year old Coric who is ranked thirteenth in the world.
Auger-Aliassime is only the sixth teenager in the last four in Miami and the youngest of the lot. Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have all been ranked world number One in their career. On Thursday, Denis Shapovalov became the seventh teenager into the last four stage.
Following is the semi-final line up with my pick mentioned first :-
Roger Federer (3) (16-2) v. Denis Shapovalov (20) (13-6); first meeting.
John Isner (7) (14-6) v. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Q) (14-6); first meeting.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]