To this day, everyone in Drummondville remembers the moment they witnessed the future of Canadian tennis. In fact, there is a poster commemorating the historic encounter between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime on display at the Challenger Banque Nationale de Drummondville.
It was on 19 March 2017 that Shapovalov, 17, and Auger-Aliassime, 16, battled in front of the home fans, in what was the youngest ATP Challenger Tour semi-final in nearly 30 years. At the time, they were relatively unknown teens, ready to introduce themselves to the world.
On Saturday, two new fresh faces will assume that role on the clay of Trieste, Italy. Carlos Alcaraz and Lorenzo Musetti will duel for a spot in the championship match at the Tennis Club Triestino. It will be the youngest semi-final on the Challenger circuit since that momentous all-Canadian encounter three years ago.
At the age of 17 years and three months, Alcaraz is making waves in his first full season as a professional. He enters Saturday’s semi-final after dropping just one set from qualifying. That’s five wins in seven days for the Juan Carlos Ferrero pupil. Alcaraz is already no stranger to the big moment, having triumphed in his ATP Tour debut in February in Rio de Janeiro. At 3:00am, he stunned countryman and World No. 41 Albert Ramos-Vinolas for his first Top 50 win.
Armed with a mammoth forehand that leaps off the clay and a laser backhand, Alcaraz is fast becoming one of Spain’s top #NextGenATP prospects. He will meet Musetti for the first time, in what could very well be the birth of a new raucous rivalry.
Alcaraz, 16, Wins ATP Tour Debut At 3:00am In Rio
Musetti, aged 18 years and five months, is ready for a breakthrough of his own. A spot in his first Challenger championship is on the line and the Carrara native will be bolstered with the home crowd on his side.
Musetti has also not dropped a set in the main draw in Trieste, capped by a routine 67-minute win over Juan Pablo Ficovich in Friday’s quarter-finals. The Italian is already battle-tested at this level, having competed in 17 Challenger events in 2019. His lone previous semi-final came in Milan, where he fell to eventual champ Hugo Dellien.
The 2019 Australian Open boys’ champion has proven his game translates to all surfaces. The agile Musetti boasts big groundstrokes that slice through the court and impressive court awareness for a teenager.
It is sure to be a must-watch encounter on Saturday afternoon, when Alcaraz and Musetti duel at 11:30am CET in Trieste.