Learning On The Tour: Denis Shapovalov, Borna Coric Discusses Life As A Next Gen Star - UBITENNIS
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Learning On The Tour: Denis Shapovalov, Borna Coric Discusses Life As A Next Gen Star

Being named a future star of tennis has its benefits, but is there too much pressure being applied to players growing up on the tour?

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Denis Shapovalov (zimbio.com)

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

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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?

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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.

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Felix Auger Aliassime Goes The Distance To Win First Match In Rome

The Canadian was pushed to three sets in his opening match by Filip Krajinovic.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime is into the second round of the BNL D’ Italia Masters in Rome after beating his Serbian opponent Filip Krajinovic in three gruelling sets 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.

 

The marathon encounter saw the Canadian hit 45 winners and 12 aces en route to victory. Avenging his loss to Krajinovic at the same tournament last year. His win-loss for the season now stands at 13-8.

” It’s always a tough match against him and I was happy I was able to win today,” the world No.20 said afterwards.

It was Krajinovic who got off to a fast start earning a breakpoint on the Montreal natives opening service game of the match and broke to take an early 1-0 lead. The Canadian responded at 2-1 earning his first two breakpoints of the match and breaking with a solid forehand winner to get the break back and go back on serve. At 3-2 the world number 20 had a chance to take the lead but it was saved by the world number 36. Nevertheless, he would go on to break for a 5-3 lead before serving out the match.

Auger-Aliassime started the second set with confidence and broke the Serb’s opening service game. It stayed on serve until the world number 20 was serving for the win when he ended up getting broken to level the set at five. The very next game the Montreal native had three looks at a breakpoint but again was denied and the second set would be decided by a tiebreaker.

The tiebreaker stayed on serve until 4-4 when Auger Aliassime managed to get the crucial break but squandered it the following point and gave his Serbian opponent a chance to serve it out which he did following a double fault.

The third and decisive set was a roller-coaster with the Canadian holding his opening service game and than having three more breakpoints which he would convert to take another early 2-0 lead. Krajinovic would respond once again earning a breakpoint the following game and getting the break back to go back on serve until 3-3 when the Serb had his first chance to take a lead in the third set but the Canadian would come up with a huge point to save it.

The next game Auger-Aliassime would have a look at another breakpoint and this time would convert to take a 5-3 and serve for the match but struggled to close it out and the world number 36 broke serve once again.

With the Serb serving to stay in the match the Canadian increased his game to another level and managed to earn two match points. Sealing his first match win in Rome with a huge forehand winner down the line.

After the match in his post match press conference Auger Aliassime spoke about how he was able to overcome the adversity of having two chances to serve it out.

” You have to believe and be resilient at times, I wanted to win badly so I dug deep and I found a way so I am happy that I was able to find a way with all the circumstances,” he said.

Auger Aliassime will next face the number eight seed at the tournament Diego Schwartzman. The Argentine currently has a 1-0 lead in their head-to-head with their last meeting coming last October in Cologne, Germany on a indoor hard court.

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Alexander Zverev and Tim Puetz reach the semifinals in the doubles tournament in Madrid

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Alexander Zverev followed up his win against Rafael Nadal in the singles quarter final with a 6-4 3-6 10-5 win alongside his teammate Tim Puetz against Denis Shapovalov and Rohan Bopanna. 

 

On Saturday Zverev and Puetz will take on Marcell Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, who beat Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (7-3) 6-2. 

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic battled past Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 10-7. Mektic and Pavic are bidding for their sixth title in 2021 and their Masters 1000 trophy after winning in Miami and Monte-Carlo. The Croatian team set up a semifinal clash against this year’s Munich BMW Open finalists and Singapore Open champions Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, who edged past Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 6-3 3-6 10-5.

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Five Takeaways From Men’s And Women’s Rome Draws

Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu all return to Rome next week.

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Novak Djokovic (@usopen - Twitter)

Here are five things to take away from Men’s and Women’s singles draw from Rome.

 

Next week is the start of the next stop on the road to Roland Garros as the ATP and WTA tour heads to Rome next week.

The Italian capital will host a star-studded line-up as Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep look to defend their titles.

With another week of stacked ATP and WTA draws here, let us take a look at the five key points to take from this week’s draws:

  • Nadal Set For Zverev Rematch

Rafael Nadal could have a rematch with Alexander Zverev again in Rome next week as has already faced a mixed start to the clay court season. A quarter-final defeat to Andrey Rublev in Monaco was followed by a Barcelona title before losing to Zverev in the Madrid quarter-finals this week. It looks set to be another week where Nadal could face the tall German, whom he has lost on three consecutive occasions to. Before Nadal can get to Zverev, Nadal may have to overcome Jannik Sinner and Casper Ruud, two rising stars who are capable on this surface.

  • Serena Handed Good Draw On Tennis Return

Next week will see Serena Williams return to a tennis court for the first time since her Australian Open semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka. Having had her physical struggles since the end of last season, Serena now competes in a limited schedule but will be keen to boost her Roland Garros chances next week in Rome. The 23-time grand slam champion could face Roland Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska in her first match before Belinda Bencic stands in her way of a rematch with Osaka in the last eight.

  • Djokovic Looks To Avenge Recent Clay Losses

After winning the Australian Open in January, Novak Djokovic would have wanted a better clay-court season than he has had after being knocked out by Dan Evans in the third round in Monaco and an epic semi-final loss to Aslan Karatsev in Belgrade. After taking Madrid off, Djokovic looks to build momentum and may have to face Dan Evans again this week in his first match. The likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Stefanos Tsitsipas await Djokovic en route to the last four where Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev will wait for the Serb.

  • The Barty Party Looks To Roll On

Ash Barty is silencing the critics week by week and proving why she deserves her world number one ranking after winning Miami, Stuttgart and reaching the final in Madrid. In two of those three tournaments mentioned Barty would have played Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Although that won’t be happening in the final, she could face the Belarusian in the quarter-finals in Italy as a fairly comfortable draw has presented itself for the Australian. Barty’s first opponent will be either Martina Trevisan or Yaroslava Shvedova.

  • Bianca Andreescu Returns

After suffering an injury in the Miami final and testing positive for COVID-19 in Madrid, Bianca Andreescu looks to finally settle into a clay-court season as she returns in Rome. The tricky Canadian will start off against Anastasija Sevastova or Jil Teichmann before facing Petra Kvitova. If Andreescu can negotiate the first two rounds then a dream match with Simona Halep could await in the last eight. As for Halep her Rome campaign could start against Angelique Kerber.

Here is the full ATP and WTA draw:

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