MADRID: The future stars of men’s tennis are nurtured by a program created by the ATP to promote and develop their careers. Denis Shapovalov and Borna Coric are both members of this initiative, but how much of an impact has it had on them?
Called the ‘Next Generation,’ the scheme aims to guide players under the age of 21 in the world’s top 200. Last year saw Milan host the annual ATP Next Gen Finals, featuring the highest ranked players in that age group. The winner, Hyeon Chung, then went on to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. A run he partly attributes to his journey in Milan.
19-year-old Shapovalov was also present in the tournament. The Canadian is currently ranked 43rd in the world. Making him the youngest player in the top 50. His experience of the Next Gen has been mainly positive for him. The rivalry forming within the group is one he believes is pushing him to work harder on the tour.
“There is a lot of young players coming up and a lot of young talent. So it’s definitely tough to keep up with all these guys, but I feel like it is helping us.” He said.
“When I see a guy doing well it kind of pumps me up to train and be better than him and vice versa.”
For Coric, who is aged 21, the process was more of an awakening for him. Despite his young age, he has already experienced high and lows on the tour. Ranging from wins over players such as Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, to missing a chunk of the tour to undergo surgery on his knee.
“It helped me in the sense that shows I’m one of the best ones (on the tour).” Coric told ubitennis.net.
Friendship is key
Travelling around the world and playing for thousands of dollars, some might think friendship is a rare opportunity. On the other hand, there is something different about the young players. Obviously they want to become the best, but there never seems to be any hard feelings. Even a tense encounter between Daniil Medvedev (a former Next Gen member) and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Miami Open was later resolved amicably.
“I think the best thing is that we all get along really well. All the new generation, we are all really good friends.” Explained Shapovalov.
To date, there are 10 players under the age of 21 in the top 100 this week. The contingent is headed by Alexander Zverev at third in the world. Zverev has already claimed seven ATP titles, including two at Masters 1000 level. Something that has drawn praise from Coric.
“I think many guys have done well.” He said. “We are all competing against each other. So it’s very good.”
Too much too young?
As well as the positive associations with the Next Gen campaign, it is rarely spoken about any potential drawbacks. Bringing rising stars directly into the limelight is good for the tour, but how about the players wellbeing? During this year’s Australian Open Roger Federer told Zverev to not place himself under ‘unnecessary pressure.’
Despite the concerns, Shapovalov and Coric are unfazed by it all. Shapovalov has vowed to not get too carried away with the hype surrounding him. Last year at the US Open he became the youngest player to reach the fourth round since 1989.
“For me to play these events is fun. There is no pressure on me. I’m 19-years-old, I can’t expect so much from myself.” He concluded. “I’m happy. I never expected to be in the position that I am this young in my life.”
Coric was more open about the pressure he faced transitioning from juniors to the pro circuit. Although he believes that it has actually had a good impact on his development as a player.
“It puts a lot of pressure on you (being in the Next Gen), which I think is good because you learn to cope with it better and you get used to it from a very young age.“
So what advice would the current group of rising stars give to the future generation? One player believes that aggression is pivotal.
“The most important thing is to set yourself an aggressive game style. When you’re young it’s not easy to do.” Said Shapovalov. “It’s not easy to do because you’re getting lobbed and passed all the time.
“This is kind of what happened to me. My mum always told me to come forward and today it always feels like such an advantage in my game.” He continued.
Both Shapovalov and Coric are playing in this week’s Madrid Open. On Tuesday Shapovalov defeated Benoit Paire 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4. Meanwhile Coric upset ninth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-2.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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