Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Basilashvili to earn quarterfinal spot
Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, serves during the Miami Open tennis tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)
MIAMI -- Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime knows there are expectations that come with being a breakout star in pro tennis, but he also knows it's a burden he doesn't have to bear alone.
Auger-Aliassime scored yet another big win by an up-and-coming Canadian star with a fourth-round upset of Nikoloz Basilashvili on Tuesday at the Miami Open.
The 18-year-old from Montreal, who had to win two qualifying matches just to get into the ATP Tour Masters 1000 event, showed a veteran's composure in the 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over the No. 17 seed from Georgia.
Auger-Aliassime, who came into the tournament ranked 57th in the world, is guaranteed to move up to at least 41st next week with his latest victory. He is the first player born in the 2000s to reach the top 50, and the second Canadian teenager along with Denis Shapovalov.
The two young men are joined on the women's side by 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who won at Indian Wells last week and reached the fourth round in Miami before retiring with a shoulder injury, to form Canada's trio of tennis teen sensations.
"Yeah, we are definitely seeing it and feeling it," Auger-Aliassime said of the increased expectations for the young players. "But I think it's all positives. I don't think anyone sees it as an extra pressure or anything.
"I think we're all just enjoying our time and enjoying the fact that we are three young players plus (veteran Milos Raonic) that are playing, you know, good at the same time.
"Having examples like this in the country is crucial. I remember for me it was. So to be able now to give back and inspire younger kids is a privilege."
Auger-Aliassime is just the second qualifier in the last 20 years to reach the Miami quarterfinals. Argentina's Guillermo Canas was the other, advancing to the final in 2007.
The Canadian's days of having to qualify for tournaments will come to an end shortly, now that his ranking has improved. Entry deadlines for tournaments are weeks before events begin -- and Auger-Aliassime's ranking wasn't good enough at the Miami cutoff to get him direct entry.
Auger-Aliassime will play No. 11 seed Borna Coric of Croatia in the quarterfinals.
"Coric is one of the most solid players on the tour from the baseline, super disciplined," Auger-Aliassime said. "(I) would have to, you know, find ways to create some space. Maybe finish the points at the net a little bit more.
The hard-hitting Basilashvili dominated much of the first set against Auger-Aliassime and finally got a break to go up 6-5. But Auger-Aliassime battled back and converted his lone break-point opportunity of the first set to tie it at 6-6.
In the tiebreak, two straight aces by Auger-Aliassime and an ensuing double fault by Basilashvili put the Canadian on top for good.
Auger-Aliassime broke Basilashvili twice in the second set, allowing him to win on serve in the final game.
"I think in the tiebreak, I was able to be a bit more solid and pressure him a little bit more, and it really made a difference," Auger-Aliassime said. "After, I felt like I had an edge over him in the second set, being up a break twice and being able to secure my serve at the end. So it was more my way then."
Shapovalov, the 20th seed in Miami, upset No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in a fourth-round match later Tuesday. The Canadian held on for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) win that lasted two hours 14 minutes. He will face American Frances Tiafoe in the next round.
Auger-Aliassime upset Tsitsipas in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., last week.
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., and India's Rohan Bopanna will play a men's doubles quarterfinal against twin brothers Mike and Bob Bryan of the United States on Wednesday.
The fifth-seeded women's doubles team of Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and Yifan Xu of China also has reached the quarterfinals.