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

Embed from Getty Images

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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Matteo Berrettini battles past Alejandro Tabilo to reach the quarter final in Kitzbuehl

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Matteo Berrettini beat second seed Alejandro Tabilo 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) to reach the quarter final at the Generali Open in Kitzbuehl. 

Berrettini has extended his winning streak to seven consecutive matches following his second title of the year in Gstaad against Quentin Halys. The Italian player won 79% of his first service points.  

Berrettini went up 2-2 0-30 but Tabilo hit two aces to hold  serve. Tabilo led 30-15 at 3-4, but Berrettini hit three aces to hold serve. Berrettini earned his first mini-break to take a 5-4 lead after a double fault from Tabilo and won the final two points to close out the tie-break 7-4. 

Tabilo saved four break points in the second game from 0-40 down to hold serve at deuce. Berrettini went up a break in the eight game to take a 5-2 lead. The Italian player was not able to serve out the match at 5-3 in the second set, as Tabilo broke back in the 10th game. Both players went on serve en route to tie-break. Berrettini earned two mini-breaks to take a 5-2 lead. Tabilo pulled one mini-break back, but Berrettini sealed the win on his third match point.

“Having the chance to just play, feeling good and healthy, fighting for matches is just what I wanted for so many matches. So I am enjoying it and I am looking forward for my next match”, said Berrettini.

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Jannik Sinner Withdraws From Olympics Due To Tonsillitis

Jannik Sinner has withdrawn from the Olympics due to tonsillitis.

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World number one Jannik Sinner has withdrawn from the Olympics due to tonsillitis.

The Italian was well placed to win a medal in Paris but has now had to withdraw from the games due to illness.

It was supposed to be his first Olympics as he was set to be the top seed in both singles and doubles.

However Sinner seems to still be struggling from his health problems that he had at Wimbledon in his quarter-final match against Daniil Medvedev.

In a statement on Twitter Sinner said he was strongly advised to miss the Olympics and will now watch from home.

Sinner will now be replaced in the singles draw by Andrea Vavassori while Luciano Darderi will now team up with Lorenzo Musetti in doubles.

Now Sinner aims to be healthy in time for his title defence in Canada which starts on the 5th of August.

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Coco Gauff ‘Proud’ Of Being Named Olympic Flagbearer alongside Lebron James

Coco Gauff will be the US flagbearer alongside Lebron James at the opening ceremony in Paris.

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Coco Gauff has explained her pride about being named Olympic flagbearer alongside NBA legend Lebron James.

The American found out when Christopher Eubanks revealed the news to Gauff and the rest of the US tennis team in a video that was posted on Instagram.

It was news that came as a shock to Gauff who is set to make her first appearance at the Olympics.

The incredible news got better as she will be flagbearer alongside idol and NBA legend Lebron James.

Speaking about the news Gauff spoke about the pride she feels and how the Olympics is one of her goals for the season, “I still feel like this is all a dream.” Gauff said to Vogue.

“There is no greater honor than being chosen by my fellow athletes to be this year’s flag bearer, especially alongside one of my idols, Lebron. I would say the biggest things on there are to win another Slam, and a medal at the Olympics.”

Gauff is in a good position to win a medal at the Olympics and will be full of confidence heading into the event having reached the semi-finals of Roland Garros, where the Olympic tennis event is being played.

Now the American gets to complete her Olympic experience by having a moment of a lifetime alongside one of America’s all-time great athletes, “I never thought in a million years I would have the honour of carrying the American flag for Team USA in the Opening Ceremony,” Gauff stated.

“I could not be more proud to lead my teammates with LeBron as we showcase our dedication and passion on the biggest stage there is — at a moment where we can bring athletes and fans together from around the world.”

The opening ceremony will take place on Friday evening while the tennis event gets underway on Saturday.

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