In years to come, there is a good chance west London tennis fans will want to brag about the time they were at Queen’s Club to witness the tournament debut of a fresh faced youngster from Canada.
No-one who was lucky enough to see 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime get the better of Stefanos Tsitsipas will have been left in any doubt at all about the likely future for this newcomer.
He was up against the world number six from Greece who has himself been nothing short of sensational in the past year – beating top names and reaching a Grand Slam semi-final already.
And yet, the Athenian was made to appear almost ordinary by an unfeasibly assured young man who has variety in his armoury and ice cool veins when it comes to decision making and coping with pressure. Break points do not faze him, he merely goes up a gear to get out of trouble.
Auger-Aliassime looks a natural on grass and that first ATP singles title is only a matter of time. It could even be on Sunday.
Tsitsipas has been superb this year, but here he was looking flustered. He lost three times to the man two years his junior before they turned professional and he had already lost the first competitive clash between the pair at Indian Wells in March.
At one stage, he crashed his racket into the turf in frustration, as if envisaging 15 more years of agony at the hands of his nemesis. The pair are that good that this could be one of many clashes down the line.
Tsitsipas admitted the prospect of getting the better of Auger-Aliassime could be a problem for him in the years ahead.
“It does worry me,” he conceded. “I mean, it’s upsetting obviously that he’s better than me. I have to accept that he’s better than me. I might never beat him but if I think that way, just need to wait, years maybe, for that chance to come.
“He’s beaten me every single time we have faced each other. He has the whole package to play big. I’m sure if he ever gets the difficult chance to play Nadal, Djokovic or Federer, he’s going to beat them, for sure. I will not be surprised if he gets wins over those guys. We will definitely see him in the top five.”
And can the young man really go all the way and secure the Fever-Tree title? “No doubt about it,” Tsitsipas said. “I wouldn’t be surprised. I think he can win Grand Slams, to be honest with you.”
Auger-Aliassime took the first set 7-5 after 51 minutes – the key being the winning of a high percentage of first serve points. He was patient in eking out an advantage, but once in front, he scented blood and went for the kill, breaking serve at the start of the second set to race into a 3-0 lead. He never let his opponent back into it and a time-out called by the Greek for a shoulder massage from the trainer seemed almost symbolic of the pain the teenager was causing him.
Today, Auger-Aliassime takes on Andy Murray’s doubles partner Feliciano Lopez in the second semi-final of the day – the Spaniard having recovered from a set down to beat Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 in a long quarter-final encounter yesterday.
In the first semi-final, Daniil Medvedev will fly the Russian flag after making short work of Argentinian Diego Schwartzman, 6-2, 6-2 in his last-eight tie. His opponent will be Gilles Simon, who prevailed in an all-French affair against compatriot Nicolas Mahut 7-6, 5-7, 7-6.