Felix On Serving Woes: 'It's Like I Caught A Virus'
For maybe the first time all tournament, Felix Auger-Aliassime didn't know what to do or what to say.
Double faults crippled the 18-year-old's chances of serving out the first and second sets against defending champion John Isner during their Miami Open presented by Itau semi-final on Friday.
And Auger-Aliassime, who has had every answer on the court and off it during his historic semi-final run, was somewhat speechless as he tried to describe what happened.
“It's a chance you can't miss, serving two times for the set, and just, I don't know. It's just terrible,” said Auger-Aliassime, who lost 7-6(3), 7-6(4).
“For sure, nerves. It's like I caught a virus or something. I don't know. I couldn't put a second serve anymore. 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.”
It shouldn't, however, take the #NextGenATP Canadian long to reflect on his maiden ATP Masters 1000 semi-final run and realise just what he has achieved.
Auger-Aliassime became the youngest semi-finalist in the tournament's 35-year history. The qualifier won seven matches and knocked off Dominic Thiem's conqueror Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 17th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia and 11th seed Borna Coric of Croatia.
“It was a very good tournament for Felix, that's what we have to remember. And of course, he will learn from this kind of match. It's another experience. But congrats to John because he was able to come back twice,” Frederic Fontang, one of Auger-Aliassime's coaches, told ATP Radio.
The Canadian became the first teenager to make the Miami semi-finals since 19-year-olds Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray played in the 2007 semi-finals. And Auger-Aliassime also will be the first player born in the 2000s to break into the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings. He's currently No. 57 but is projected to climb to around No. 33 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“The biggest lesson was to stay in the present and believe in yourself, because you can always dig deep and find resources within yourself. So I think that's a huge lesson to not give up, stay calm, and just work every day,” Auger-Aliassime said.
The teenager didn't think fatigue got the best of him, despite his seven matches coming into the semi-final. It was just a case of the nerves, he said, and he's already eager for another opportunity.
“I didn't feel like it was the focus or concentration. I just felt like the nerves got to me a little. 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,” he said.
“I felt like I was connecting a few good returns. I still broke him twice, which is not easy. I felt like my return game was good today, but obviously he puts a lot of pressure on your serve. And even on second serves he goes around, hits hard. So I have to figure out a way to get better on that and try to handle him better next time.”