Felix Auger-Aliassime has been all smiles this week at the Miami Open presented by Itau, and for good reason. The last time the Canadian visited Hard Rock Stadium, in 2019, he enjoyed the best ATP Masters 1000 run of his career.
Then an 18-year-old, Auger-Aliassime lost the first set in his first-round qualifying match. From there, the teen won seven consecutive matches to reach the last four at the prestigious event.
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“It was special. And I think I’m more impressed with myself today than I was two years ago, because I now know how difficult it is to make the semi-finals of a Masters ,” Auger-Aliassime said. “At the time I thought, ‘Okay, I made the first one and maybe I’ll do a couple [more] in the next two, three years.’ And you realise, ‘Okay, it’s not that easy.’
“You need to have a high level and circumstances happened two years ago that I just played a great level and I was able to beat the opponents I played. But honestly, it was quite an impressive week when I look back at what I’ve done. I’m happy to be back here because obviously when you’re in a tournament where you’ve had good memories and you feel good about the tournament, it just feels better.”
For a short time, Felix looked back on his run with some disappointment, despite beating Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Borna Coric. In the semi-finals against defending champion John Isner, the Canadian served for both sets they played. But the big-serving American pulled through two tie-breaks to reach the final. Soon after the match, Auger-Aliassime was seen back on the practice court hitting serves.
“It was frustrating at the time, and I think for a couple months after it was a tough memory because I did have a chance serving for both sets and I remember clearly how the match happened,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was a tough loss in the end. But still, such a good memory of this great run and the great tournament I had.”
Auger-Aliassime is off to a strong 9-4 start to 2021, which includes a run to his seventh ATP Tour final at the Murray River Open in Melbourne. The 11th seed will try to maintain his momentum on Friday when he plays aggressive Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the second round in Miami.
“I’m feeling good. First things first, I’m feeling healthy in my body, in my mind. Feeling fresh,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think I’ve been able to put a good setup around me this year and just prepare well for the tournaments and be ready. I’ve worked to be in this position.
“Of course, there were a few tight matches that I would have liked to win in Australia or last week in Acapulco. But for the start of the year, honestly, it’s a good one and hopefully I can keep on improving.”