PREVIEW: The Rising Stars Aiming Prove A Point At The Next Gen Finals - UBITENNIS
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PREVIEW: The Rising Stars Aiming Prove A Point At The Next Gen Finals

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After years of planning, the ATP’s hugely promoted Next Generation Finals concept has come to fruition in the Italian city of Milan.

The round-robin tournament features the highest ranked players under the age of 21 on the ATP Tour this season. Alexander Zverev is the only qualified player to miss the event as he prepares for next week’s ATP Finals in London. In total seven of the highest ranked players along with an Italian wild card will play in the tournament, which will be held at the Fiera Milano stadium. The aim of the event is to promote the younger generation of the sport to a wider audience. Proving that the future of the sport will be in safe hands when the ‘big four’ retire.

“I think it is going to be really interesting,” participant Karen Khachanov told the ATP.
“It’s something unusual. You need to get used to it and try to enjoy. I think it’s going to be a nice, fun event.”

Unlike tour events, there will be a series of new rules being trialled in Milan. It is part of the ATP’s goal to make the sport appeal to a wider audience as well as broadcasters. Matches will be the best-of-five sets with each set being the first player to get to four games. If the set is level at 3-3, a tiebreaker will be played. There will be sudden death deuce points, no service lets and a visible shot clock for players to monitor how long they take between points. Players will also be allowed to speak with their coaches at the end of each set via headset.

“I don’t think this will be the future and I hope they don’t change the rules because then they change the sport,” 20-year-old Andrey Rublev commented about the changes.
“It’s better to make a new sport if they are going to change the rules.”

The draw

On Sunday night the draw for the tournament took place. Staying away from traditional methods, the organisers opted to conduct the draw in an unorthodox fashion. Prompting a social media backlash. Each player would walk down the runway with a model next to them. Then they found out which group they belonged to when the model revelled a letter hidden somewhere on their body. Prompting a sense of awkardness among both the players and the crowd. Former British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray branded the ceremony as ‘awful.’

The Groups

Similar to the London finals, the eight players will be split into two groups. The top two in each group will then progress to the semi-final stage.

Group A

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Denis Shapovalov heads into the tournament high in confidence following a breakthrough season. At the US Open, he became the youngest man to reach the fourth round since Michael Chang in 1989. He also defeated Rafael Nadal at the Canadian Masters in August. Shapovalov has won three titles in 2017, one at Futures level and two on the Challenger Tour. Overall, he has won 38 out of 58 main draw matches played this season.

At the age of 18, the Canadian already has already set out a big goal. To promote and attract more people to play tennis in his home country.

“My goal is to raise the level of Canadian tennis and just have more kids picking up a racquet instead of a hockey stick. I think I have definitely helped to do that, and hopefully I can keep doing it,” Shapovalov said. “I know a lot of people were tweeting towards me that don’t even follow tennis, and they’re starting to get into the sport because I have been doing well.
“It’s really inspiring for me. It makes me really want to keep working hard so that I can keep motivating these kids to try to pick up a racquet and hopefully become, as a player, like Milos [Raonic] or Vasek [Pospisil] or even me.”

Another player who enjoyed a breakthrough at the US Open was Andrey Rublev. In New York the Russian scored his first top-10 win over Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the quarter-finals. A former French Open junior champion, Rublev clinched his maiden ATP title in Umag, Croatia earlier this year. Defeating Paolo Lorenzi in the final.

A player who once said he has no preference about which surface he plays on, Rublev has praised the ATP for their new approach to the Next Gen finals.

“I think this innovation is a good idea. All the players are really motivated with this tournament,” he said. “You watch the big stars trying to qualify for London and us young players have a similar feeling here. Competing with that feeling inside you is interesting. In some ways, this is a preparation for the future”.

Hyeon Chung, who was named the ATP’s most improved player in 2015, peaked at a high of 44 in September. The South Korean has won one challenger title this year in Maui. At the French Open he achieved his best ever performance at a grand slam by reaching the third round. With a steady win-loss record of 28-17 so far this season, Chung has only lost in the first round once in his seven most recent tournaments.

“It’s the last tournament of the season, so I want to stay strong to the finish. Everyone here is playing well and I’m happy to be a part of this.” Chung told atpworldtour.com.

Completing the group is Gianluigi Quinzi, who won the Italian wildcard competition. Quinzi is yet to break the top 200, reaching a high of 226th in May. The 21-year-old is a former prodigy once tipped to rise to the top after becoming No.1 in juniors at the age of 17. As a teenager, he defeated Chung to win the 2013 Wimbledon boys title.

player Current ranking Ranking best ATP titles 2017 main draw win-loss
Andrey Rublev

37

35

1 ATP
1 Challenger

30-20

Denis Shapovalov

51

49

2 Challenger

38-20

Hyeon Chung

54

44

8 Challenger

28-17

Gianluigi Quinzi

306

226

0

13-11

Group B

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Boric Coric will be hoping to end his roller coaster season on a high. The Croatian 20-year-old won his first tour title in Marrakesh, Morocco before stunning Andy Murray at the Madrid Open in May. Since Madrid, Coric has only managed to win seven main draw matches on the tour. Two of which guided him to the third round of the US Open.

“I think I need to improve basically every part of my game.” He told Ubitennis.net earlier in the year. “Especially forehand and also the backhand is sometimes lacking consistency as well. I think every part of the game I see where I can improve and how I can improve, I just need some time.”

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev has achieved a series of firsts in 2017. At Wimbledon he scored his first win over a top 10 player by defeating Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. Rewarding him his first ever main draw win in a grand slam. At the start of the year he also reached his first tour final in Chennai before losing to Roberto Bautista Agut.

Chasing after his first title of the year, Karen Khachanov is hoping to end the season on a high. Breaking into the top 30 earlier this year, the 21-year-old has only been able to win one match in his past five tournaments. His best performance was at the Halle Open in Germany when he reached the semifinals. Despite his mixed performance, world No.1 Rafael Nadal has predicted a bright future for the Russian.

“He’s really good and will have chances to be up in the rankings,” said Nadal. “Karen is a great player. He works well and has a big potential.”

Finally, flying the flag for America is Jared Donaldson. Starting the year at 105th in the world, he is slowly rising up the ranks by displaying glimmers of his talent. At the Miami Masters he reached the fourth round as a qualifier. He was able to follow up on that by reaching the third round at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati Masters.

As a teenager Donaldson trained to Argentina in a bid to diversify his game. One player that remembers watching him train is Diego Schwartzman, who has praised his development over recent years.

“He’s playing unbelievable. We’ve played already two times this year,” Schwartzman told ATPWorldTour.com. “When he was in [Buenos Aires], he was a young guy. He was 15, 16, I didn’t expect him… He’s improved a lot, and he’s playing unbelievable this year.”

 

player Current ranking Ranking best ATP titles 2017 main draw win-loss
Borna Coric

48

33

1 ATP
3 Challenger

21-15

Daniil Medvedev

65

48

1 Challenger

24-25

Karen Khachanov

45

29

1 ATP
1 Challenger

27-30

Jared Donaldson

55

50

1 Challenger

25-26

Order of play – day 1

Afternoon session
Karen Khachanov RUS vs Daniil Medvedev RUS
Denis Shapovalov CAN vs Hyeon Chung KOR

Night session
Borna Coric CRO vs Jared Donaldson USA
Andrey Rublev RUS vs Gianluigi Quinzi ITA

 

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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