BSP-01, 02 Federer ready for Isner shoot-out for Miami crown

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Federer ready for Isner shoot-out for Miami crown

MIAMI, March 30, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Roger Federer is gearing up for a Miami
Open final shootout with John Isner on Sunday after blowing away young-gun
Denis Shapovalov in straight sets.

Federer produced a 6-2, 6-4 masterclass at Hard Rock Stadium to leave up-
and-coming star Shapovalov, who grew up idolizing the Swiss, chasing shadows
during a difficult first set.

The Swiss was superb in dismantling the 19 year-old’s game, but knows with
huge serving Isner lying in wait in what will be the former world number
one’s 50th ATP Masters final, the key will be to defuse the reigning Miami
Open champion’s monster service game.

Isner used it to great effect in his 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) win over
Shapovalov’s friend and compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime earlier in the day,
smashing down 21 aces. He’ll be looking for more of the same against 20 time
Grand Slam champion Federer.

“Playing a big server like John is like being in a penalty shootout in
soccer, but I enjoy it,” said number four seed Federer who coped brilliantly
with Kevin Anderson’s dangerous serve in the quarter-finals, winning the
first set to love.

“Sometimes you go with momentum. Sometimes you go with feel. Sometimes you
guess maybe a little bit and sometimes you see it. It’s a combination of all
sort of things.

“You just hope that the stars align, that you pick the right side, that he
picks the wrong side, that maybe he misses a serve, that you can put him in
uncomfortable situations time and time again, and at the end somehow you find
a way.”

Federer had no such challenge from Shapovalov, playing his fifth ATP Tour
semi-final. Even though the Swiss was standing in his way of a first final,
the 19 year-old stressed beforehand that it was a “dream” to take on Federer.

It quickly, however, turned into a nightmare.

The Canadian displayed understandable nerves early on, a struggle with his
first serve proving as much in a 10 minute opening game which he eventually
won.

Yet it didn’t settle him down and when another horribly loose backhand
flew long, Federer pocketed a vital early break and stayed in the driver’s
seat.

Shapovalov, who will jump to a career best 20th in the world thanks to
this impressive run, enjoyed some much better moments in the second set and
looked more relaxed, although the match was never in his hands.

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He hit just eight winners in response to Federer’s 30 but will learn from
this.

“It’s kind of surreal, being on the court against Roger,”admitted the
Canadian who joked the only enjoyable moment for him was the warm up.

“Obviously I wasn’t trying to focus on the fact that it’s him on the other
side.

“I was just trying to play as good as I can, but he played an excellent
match. I wasn’t able stay at his level. I’m just going to try to learn from
this and move forward.”

Federer, assessing his own performance, said he played “very well”.

“I had to because when you let Denis play, he’s got some serious power and
he gets rhythm going. He can really put you in uncomfortable situations.”

This was the first time since 2007 that two teenagers have reached an ATP
Masters semi-finals and although both suffered disappointing defeats, they
leave South Florida with their heads held high.

Auger-Aliassime’s dream run finished with the youngster from Montreal
competing confidently in the biggest match of his career even if he will rue
the chances that escaped him after being broken while serving for the first
and second set.

“Unusual,” Isner called it. “It could have been a little bit of
inexperience and maybe a little bit of fatigue, also.”

Despite the disappointment etched all over Auger-Aliassime’s face at the
end, his run here will give him great confidence moving forward as he, and
Shapovalov, aim to prove their Grand Slam credentials.

The 18-year-old is the youngest-ever male semi-finalist in Miami and only
the second qualifier to reach the last four after Guillermo Canas reached the
same stage in 2007 before losing to Novak Djokovic in the final.

Auger-Aliassime will also see his ranking jump from 55 to 33 in the world.

“I think I did the best that I could,” he said. “It’s a chance you can’t
miss, serving two times for the set, and just — I don’t know. It’s just
terrible. The biggest lesson I learned was to stay in the present and believe
in yourself.”

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