Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, Leads Youth Movement at the Miami Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, Leads Youth Movement at the Miami Open

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The story of Juan Ponce de León searching for a fountain of youth in Florida may be apocryphal, but this week at the men’s event of the Miami Open, there seems to be something revitalizing in the water.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, an 18-year-old Canadian qualifier, is the youngest man to reach the semifinals in the tournament’s history. And his compatriot and friend Denis Shapovalov, 19, will seek to join him in the semifinals when he faces the American Frances Tiafoe, 21, in a quarterfinal on Thursday afternoon.

Auger-Aliassime, ranked 57th, booked his spot in the semifinals with a 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over 11th-seeded Borna Coric on Friday night. Coric, 22, was eight years younger than the next-oldest quarterfinalist, but still far more experienced than Auger-Aliassime, who is in the main draw of a Masters event for just the fifth time.

“Playing Borna, who’s been established for a few years now, I definitely didn’t expect to win,” Auger-Aliassime said, adding that he was especially surprised with how he was able to control the second set after a grueling opening set that lasted more than an hour.

Ranked 182nd a year ago, Auger-Aliassime, who grew up in Montreal, broke into the top 100 after reaching the final of the ATP tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February. He is poised to be ranked 33rd on Monday and would crack the top 20 if he wins the title on Sunday.

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov are the second and third teenagers to reach the Miami Open quarterfinals since 2007, when Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic did (Alexander Zverev did it in 2017). Murray, Djokovic and the eight teenage boys to achieve the feat before them went on to reach the No. 1 ranking and win at least one Grand Slam title. (A 17-year-old Rafael Nadal first beat Roger Federer in Miami, in 2004. He reached the final the next year.)

“Obviously it’s a privilege to be compared to all these great players,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think it just shows that I’m doing good things, I’m on the right track.

How Auger-Aliassime’s form will translate into Grand Slam tennis played over best-of-five sets is still an open question. At last year’s U.S. Open, his only main-draw appearance at a major, he retired in the third set of his first-round match against Shapovalov because of heart palpitations.

Federer, 37, remains the oldest player in the draw. He will play his quarterfinal match against Kevin Anderson, 32, on Thursday night.

Federer turned 19 the day Auger-Aliassime was born. Federer said he enjoyed seeing members of the young generation square off against one another, particularly savoring the fourth-round match between Shapovalov and Tsitsipas, which was decided in a third-set tiebreaker.

“I loved seeing them slug it out, and I’m sure they are going to have big matches down the road,” Federer said. “I like when they also have to play each other a little bit, because they don’t look across the net and see a guy ranked whatever it is. It’s just another guy they know from the juniors, and ‘I’m just going to beat you up now.’”

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