Roger Federer, of Switzerland, acknowledges the fans after his 6-2, 6-4 win over Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, during the semifinals of the Miami Open tennis tournament Friday, March 29, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

Federer beats 19-year-old Shapovalov in Miami Open semifinal

March 29, 2019 - 9:03 pm

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Roger Federer won a battle of the ages Friday, beating 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Miami Open.

Federer, a three-time tournament champion, advanced to the final Sunday against defending champion John Isner.

The age gap with Shapovalov was the largest of the 37-year-old Federer's career, and experience triumphed. Federer used a wide array of shotmaking to take control with two early breaks, and he lost only eight points on his serve.

"It was a tactical match by me," Federer said. "I'm happy I was able to play with variations."

Shapovalov will climb to a career-best No. 20 in the rankings.

"Denis is a great player," Federer said, "and he will be even better in the future."

Federer, seeded fourth, improved to 17-2 this year. He lost in this month's Indian Wells final to Dominic Thiem.

Like Federer, Isner advanced by beating a Canadian teenager, 18-year-old qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).

Next is a Sunday showdown in the Miami Dolphins' stadium, where the tournament moved this year from its longtime home of Key Biscayne.

"The venue is absolutely fantastic," said Isner, a big football fan. "To play in the stadium — the Super Bowl will be here next year — it's pretty amazing."

Federer is 5-2 against Isner, but they haven't played each other since 2015.

Isner, now 33, won his only ATP Masters title a year ago on Key Biscayne.

"It's amazing — I said before the tournament the chances were I would not defend my title," Isner said. "I'm very, very happy."

The 6-foot-10 American hit 21 aces in the semifinal and has 98 in five tournament matches. Federer laughingly said he'll brace for a barrage.

"I know what to expect — that he will not miss many serves," Federer said. "On Sunday I'll be the goalie and try my very best."

The women's final Saturday will match No. 5 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic against No. 12 Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Auger-Aliassime served for both sets in the semifinal, but Isner broke each time by taking advantage of double-faults, and then used his big serve to control the tiebreakers.

Nine of his 10 sets in the tournament have gone to a tiebreaker, and he has won each one. But Auger-Aliassime figured neither set should have gotten to that point.

"It's a chance you can't miss, serving two times for the set," he said. "Just terrible."

Auger-Aliassime, 5-0 previously against top 20 opponents, was the youngest male semifinalist in the tournament's 35-year history. He'll jump to a career-best No. 33 in next week's ranking.

But he'll need steadier play at pivotal moments to fulfill his potential as a future Grand Slam champion.

Isner lost serve for only the third time in the tournament to fall behind early. Auger-Aliassime served at 5-4 but double-faulted into the net three times, including on break point.

There was a repeat in the second set. Auger-Aliassime served at 5-3, double-faulted once and then hit a swinging volley into the net on break point.

The teenager blamed nerves.

"It's like I caught a virus or something," he said. "I couldn't put a second serve in anymore. That's just very tough to swallow."

Each lapse led to a tiebreaker, where Isner has been unbeatable of late after arriving at Miami with a modest 7-10 record in tiebreakers this year.

He finished strong against Auger-Aliassime, whacking three aces in the final tiebreaker, the last on a 140 mph serve that was his fastest of the match.

"I'm playing well," Isner said. "Keep it up and see what happens."

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