Historic Canadian Teen SF Set In Drummondville
All of Canada will be on their feet on Saturday when two of their native sons clash for the first time at the professional level.
Highly touted as the future of Canadian tennis, longtime friends will become rivals as future #NextGenATP star Denis Shapovalov battles fellow Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semi-finals of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Drummondville. A spot in a first Challenger final will be on the line for both competitors, in what is the third-youngest semi-final in Challenger history.
It's only fitting that the first pro encounter between 17-year-old Shapovalov and 16-year-old Auger Aliassime comes at the Challenger Banque Nationale Drummondville. The tournament holds a special place in both players' hearts. In 2015, Auger-Aliassime became the youngest to ever qualify for a Challenger main draw and thus the first born in the 2000s to receive an Emirates ATP Rankings point. Last year, Shapovalov streaked to his first Challenger semi-final in just his second main draw entered, becoming the first player born in 1999 to win a match.
Youngest Challenger Semi-finals or Finals
||SF||Horst Skoff (17) d. Franco Davin (16)
||SF||Richard Fromberg (17) d. Johan Anderson (16)
||Denis Shapovalov (17) d. Felix Auger-Aliassime (16)
"It feels unbelievable to be back and play just as well as I did last year, if not better," said Shapovalov. "I'm excited to be in the semi-finals and hope to do better than last year. It would be an unbelievable thing to win the title here. It's something I've dreamed of doing.
"I feel like playing at home with the crowd at my back helps me play my best tennis. They really carry me through the matches and they have a big part in it."
Auger-Aliassime reached his first Challenger semi-final with a strong finish against 18-year-old Alex de Minaur on Friday, storming back from a break down in the first set to prevail 7-5, 6-3. It came a day after shocking second seed Peter Polansky in straight sets for his first Top 200 win. Shapovalov, meanwhile, has not dropped a set en route to his third Challenger semi-final, dismissing Blaz Rola 7-6(6), 6-4 on Friday evening.
"This year, my level is getting better and better," said Auger-Aliassime. "I got better physically and my serve is more consistent. It proves that I'm ready to play with the big guys. Polansky is someone the Canadians looked up to over the years. To be able to play him and beat him yesterday was something special for me.
"This is a great tournament. I was here for the first edition in 2015 and made my first [Emirates ATP Rankings] points. It's always been great here and it's my first year I'm able to play the main draw. Everyone takes care of you here and they appreciate seeing the young players. Playing at home in the province of Quebec is special."
The teenage tussle will be second on Court Central on Saturday, with play beginning at 12:30pm. Ruben Bemelmans faces John-Patrick Smith in the first semi-final.