Félix Auger-Aliassime, 15, youngest ever to win prestigious Eddie Herr junior tournament in Florida

Félix Auger-Aliassime, 15, youngest ever to win prestigious Eddie Herr junior tournament in Florida

Félix Auger-Aliassime's preparation for the Eddie Herr Championships, a top-level junior tournament played on artificial clay (Har-Tru) at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla. this week, was a pair of low-level $10,000 professional tournaments on real red clay in Peru.

Whatever it was, it worked as Auger-Aliassime, who turned 15 in August, became what the tournament says is youngest-ever winner of the 18-and-under division after a 6-3, 6-7 (6) 7-6 (3) victory over 16-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia in Sunday's final.

(We went back over the list of champions as far back as 1993, and he is by far the youngest at least in the last 23 editions; the tournament has been played since 1987)

De Minaur led 6-3, 5-4 and 40-love in the third set before Auger-Aliassime saved those three match points and went on to take the match in the tiebreak.

Auger-Aliassime also saved three match points in the third round when he defeated Alexandar Lazarov of Bulgaria 2-6, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (2).

It's the Quebecer's fourth junior title of the season.

According to Colette Lewis, whose Zoo Tennis website is the go-to site for junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime was cramping late in the nearly three-hour match, and in his previous match, felt dizzy after the final and had to get treatment for cramps.

"When I had match points (against), it was just like, 'Okay, that's it, you have to go get your points, one at a time,' " he told Zoo Tennis exclusively. "I was like, 'I'll do it again, I've already done it. I know I can do it.' Win the next point, the second point and the one after that. He didn't do anything wrong, he didn't miss, he didn't give me the points."

Read Lewis's comprehensive account of the finals here.

"He obviously played a great match. Especially in the big moments, he came up with some incredible shots. I'll give him all the credit that he deserves for pulling that out. I honestly thought I didn't do much wrong. It was a great match from him," de Minaur told Zoo Tennis.

The list of Eddie Herr champions includes many players who have gone on to great success in the pro game, especially on the girls' side.

Austria's Dominic Thiem won the boys' 18s in 2011, Marin Cilic in 2005, Jérémy Chardy in 2004 (Australia's Bernard Tomic won the boys' 12-and-under event that year). Former top-10 players Dominika Cibulkova, Anna Kournikova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic (the latter two former No. 1s) are former under-18 champions. Maria Sharapova won the girls' 16-and-under event in 2000; former boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov won the boys' 16s event in 2006.

Several Canadians have taken home trophies there as well, in the younger age divisions.

2011, boys' 16s: Tommy Mylnikov
2011, boys' 14s: Alejandro Tabilo
2010, girls' 14s: Françoise Abanda
2008, girls' 16s; Eugenie Bouchard
2003, boys' 16s: Jesse Levine
2002 girls' 12s: Sharon Fichman
2001, girls' 16s: Beier Ko

But no Canadian has ever won in the 18-and-under division of the Grade 1 level event, a big lead-in for the even more prestigious Orange Bowl next week in Miami.

Auger-Aliassime's training partner at the national centre in Montreal, Benjamin Sigouin, also had a great week in Bradenton. Sigouin, seeded No. 14 (Auger-Aliassime was No. 6, De Minaur No. 4) reached the semi-finals before losing to De Minaur. Along the way, Sigouin upset top seed Casper Ruud of Norway, the No. 5-ranked junior player in the world. Auger-Aliassime and Sigouin also reached the doubles semi-finals.

Top Canadian hopes Charlotte Robillard-Milette (No. 4 seed) and Bianca Andreescu (No. 7) both lost in the second round of the singles.

Click here to see all the Canadian results around the world this week.

Most of them will head to the Orange Bowl next week and will be joined by Denis Shapovalov, who opted to play several Futures tournaments in Florida the last few weeks instead of the Eddie Herr. Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime won the US Open junior doubles title in New York in September, in their first trip to the tournament.