Teen tennis star making the world take notice
Australian star Alex de Minaur was upset by world No. 217 Marcos Giron in the second round of the ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells but it was another young gun who had tongues wagging in California.
De Minaur scorched through the first set but American qualifier Giron swung the momentum his way against the No. 23 seed to prevail 1-6 6-4 6-2 and claim just the third tour-level win of his career.
De Minaur wasn't the only seeded player to crash out in the second round as teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 6-2 to record his first top-10 scalp.
The Canadian 18-year-old claimed the first break to earn a 4-2 gap and that was enough to secure the opening set against the ninth seed, who defeated Roger Federer on his way to the Australian Open semi-finals in January.
Tsitsipas, who earned a top-10 ranking for the first time in his career after a strong start to the year, made a group of errors to fall behind in the second set.
An unfortunate net error from the 20-year-old Greek followed by a wild forehand conceded a break before Auger-Aliassime stretched further away as he fired down an ace to lead 3-1.
Auger-Aliassime unleashed a punishing backhand pass and ruthlessly rallied until Tsitsipas wilted to surrender another break, giving him the opportunity to serve for the match.
The world No. 58, who became the youngest player to reach an ATP 500 event final in Rio de Janeiro last month, showed no signs of nerves as he served out the biggest win of his young career.
"I was able to serve well and I felt aggressive, pretty solid," Auger-Aliassime said.
"Mentally, I felt like I had the edge having beat him three times in juniors when we first met.
"I'm able to play well in the big points and the momentum I'm having gives me great confidence."
One more victory at Indian Wells will likely see Auger-Aliassime make his top 50 debut next week but he won't be there for long according to Greg Rusedski. Britain's former No. 1 tennis player made a bold claim about the teenage freak after his shock upset, likening him to Rafael Nadal and predicting big things ahead.
He also said the 87kg, 1.91m star has the body and athletic capacity to match his awesome skill set.
"By the end of this year, this guy could possibly be top 10 (in the world), if not the following year," Rusedski said on Amazon Prime.
"That's how good this guy is. You look at the rotation he puts on the forehand, it's a little bit like Rafael Nadal. But a right-handed version.
"A great attitude, great composure and also a great team around him is also a key ingredient.
"He's such a specimen and he moves incredibly well. Having spoken to a lot of the coaches in Tennis Canada, they all said to me this guy is the best athlete we've ever seen on a tennis court.
"That's a big thing to say."
Sports Illustrated tennis writer Jon Wertheim echoed Rusedski's thoughts as a host of other journalists and commentators heaped praise on the young gun.
Writing for tennis.com after his opening round win over Cameron Norrie, Steve Tignor said Auger-Aliassime's name will soon be a household one among average sports fans.
"The most distinctive thing about Auger-Aliassime's rise so far is how logically and methodically it has played out," Tignor wrote.
"He has gone from internet sensation at 14, to US Open junior champion at 16, to one of only two teenagers in the ATP Top 100 - the other is his friend and countryman Denis Shapovalov - at 18.
"Even if he weren't producing results like this yet, Auger-Aliassime would be a player to look out for, based on how solid and thorough his technique is, and how poised he remains when things aren't going his way.
"For the rest of the world, FAA may be soon be a very familiar set of sports-world initials."