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Roger Federer and Denis Shapovalov will meet in the Miami semi-finals on Friday.

Isner Battles Felix, Federer Faces Shapovalov; SF Schedule & Preview

Doubles semi-finals also fill Friday schedule

A pair of established veterans battle a pair of #NextGenATP Canadians in Friday's semi-final action at the Miami Open presented by Itau. Seventh seed and defending champion John Isner takes on Felix Auger-Aliassime in the day session, while fourth seed Roger Federer faces No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov in the night session.

Auger-Aliassime had to fight through qualifying to make the main draw, and for months, Isner has been publicly doubting his chances of repeating in Miami.

Auger-Aliassime, no question, has endured the tougher road. The 18-year-old Canadian has won seven matches to reach the semi-finals, a path that featured wins against Dominic Thiem's conqueror Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and 17th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

By beating 11th seed Borna Coric of Croatia to make the last four, the teenager became the youngest semi-finalist in the tournament's 35-year history. Only 18-year-old Andy Roddick, in 2001, had reached the Miami quarter-finals at such an early age.

Teenagers To Reach SF Or Better In Miami Open History (since 1985)

Year

Player

Age

Round

(Opponent)

2019

Felix Auger-Aliassime

18

SF

(vs. Isner)

2019

Denis Shapovalov

19

SF

(vs. Federer)

2007

Andy Murray

19

SF

(l. to Djokovic)

2007

Novak Djokovic

19

Champion

(d. Canas)

2005

Rafael Nadal

18

Finalist

(l. to Federer)

2000

Lleyton Hewitt

19

SF

(l. to Sampras)

1990

Andre Agassi

19

Champion

(d. Edberg)

"It's a privilege to be compared to all these great players. I think it just shows that I'm doing good things, I'm on the right track,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But I think I'm seeing the long term, and right now I'm just enjoying every day, enjoying every match, because you never know what's going to happen next."

Indeed, the teenager does not know what it's like to face the missile that is Isner's serve: a fuzzy yellow ball racing towards you at speeds approaching 140 mph. Isner has surprised himself by returning to the semi-finals.

As early as mid-February, he was casually dismissing the idea that he'd repeat in Miami, where the 6'10” American won his maiden Masters 1000 title last year, beating Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-finals and Alexander Zverev in the final.

Isner's logic: I've won only one Masters 1000 title in my 13-year career. I'm probably not going to win another one, and especially not at the same place that I did a year ago.

His reverse psychology is working out perfectly. The 33-year-old has won all eight sets he's played this fortnight, seven of which have ended in tie-breaks. During his 10-match winning streak in South Florida, Isner is 10-1 in tie-breaks.

That being said, it's a safe bet to guess that at least one of their sets – perhaps the opener – will end in a tie-break, where Auger-Aliassime will have to find a way to steal a point from Isner's side.

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Federer and Shapovalov will have their first FedEx ATP Head2Head series clash. They first met when a then-15-year-old Shapovalov warmed Federer up for a match in August 2015, but the Swiss knew even then that he was witnessing something special.

"Similar to today, he was just hitting big. I was like, 'Wow, it's unbelievable. How old is he? How good is he gonna get?' He was very impressive... it just felt like he belonged there," said Federer. "I think he's a great guy and one of the great shotmakers. I'm a big fan of his game, so it's going to be a tough match tomorrow."

After surviving an opening-round scare against Radu Albot of Moldova, the Swiss has dropped an average of six games in his past three rounds. He’s looked more comfortable on Stadium Court with each match and Thursday night’s dominant quarter-final win over Kevin Anderson showed he’s now in full flight.

The fourth seed is making his 65th appearance in a Masters 1000 semi-final, with a 49-15 record when he gets there. Federer is the on-paper favourite for a fourth title in Miami, but unfamiliarity with his opponent could be a factor. After 21 years on the ATP Tour, it’s rare Federer faces a player for the first time and it often takes him a set to get adjusted. If he starts slowly, it may allow Shapovalov to quickly loosen up on his shots.

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Meanwhile, Shapovalov is perhaps playing the best tennis of his career. His fourth-round victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas was just his second Top 10 win and first in two years.

However, the Canadian has logged far more on-court time than Federer. In addition to going three sets in three of his four singles victories this fortnight, he also advanced to the doubles quarter-finals with Rohan Bopanna (l. to Bryan/Bryan).

The 19-year-old isn’t a stranger to this juncture of a Masters 1000 event, having also reached the last four at the 2017 Coupe Rogers and 2018 Mutua Madrid Open. In fact, two of his four ATP Tour semi-finals are at the Masters 1000 level. But Shapovalov has yet to reach a final or even win a set in any of his previous semi-final appearances. 

However, he isn’t afraid of a big stage and will be fearless in his approach against Federer. If Shapovalov can continue to land a high percentage of first serves as he’s done so far this tournament, it will enable him to hold comfortably in many of his service games and feel comfortable gambling on his returns. It’s safe to say that Shapovalov won’t be holding back as he looks to achieve the biggest moment of his career.

Doubles semi-finals will headline the Grandstand. Top seeds Lukasz Kubot / Marcelo Melo resume their rain-delayed match with third seeds Bob Bryan / Mike Bryan at 2-2 in the first set, while Ivan Dodig / Edouard Roger-Vasselin square off against Wesley Koolhof / Stefanos Tsitsipas.

ORDER OF PLAY - FRIDAY, 29 MARCH 2019

STADIUM start 1:00 pm
[7] John Isner (USA) vs [Q} Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
WTA match

Not Before 7:00 pm
[4] Roger Federer (SUI) vs [20] Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
WTA match

GRANDSTAND start 1:00 pm

Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) / Horacio Zeballos (ARG)
[1] Lukasz Kubot (POL) / Marcelo Melo (BRA) vs [3] Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA) 22