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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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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