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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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Jan Lennard Struff and Taylor Fritz reach the second round in Winston Salem

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Jan-Lennard Struff beat this year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato from Italy 6-3 6-4 in 1 hour and 8 minutes.

Struff broke serve once in each set and saved both break points he faced in the fourth game of the second set. He won two matches on hard court at the same tournament for the first time this season.

In the first set Struff earned a break point in the fourth game and broke Cecchinato to open up a 4-2 lead. The German player held serve on his second deuce to close out the opening set 6-3 in just under 40 minutes, when he was serving for the set in the ninth game. Cecchinato did not convert two break points at 2-1 in the second set. Both players went on serve in the next games until 4-4 when Struff got the break before holding serve at love in the next game to reach the round of 16.

US Next Gen player Taylor Fritz beat Malek Jaziri 6-1 6-4 in 63 minutes in their second head-to-head match in Winston Salem. Fritz, who reached the quarter finals in Winston Salem one year ago, saved all the six break points and converted three of his nine break points. Fritz saved four break points in the first game and converted the fourth break point in the second game, when Jaziri netted a backhand. Fritz got a double break, when Jaziri sent a backhand slice long. The US player closed out the first set with a volley winner in 25 minutes.

Both players went on serve in the first six games of the second set before Jaziri fended off a break point in the seventh game with a service winner. Fritz saved two break points to draw level to 4-4, before breaking serve at 15 in the ninth game to serve out for the match. The US Next Gen player closed out the match in the 10th game to set up a second round match against Filip Krajnovic.

Fritz will make an attempt to reach his second semifinal of the season after Houston.

Tommy Paul never faced a break point to beat Laslo Djere 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

Jaume Munar battled past Brayden Schnur 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1) setting up a second round match against last year’s ATP Next Gen runner-up Andrey Rublev.

 

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Danil Medvedev, Jan Lennard Struff and Andreas Seppi start their campaign with a win in Winston Salem

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Danil Medvedev beat Mirza Basic 6-4 6-4 to get off to a winning start in Winston Salem in 1 hour and 16 minutes. The 22-year-old Russian player earned a late break in each set to seal his spot in the second round.

Both players traded breaks in the second and third games. After six holds of serve Medvedev got a crucial break in the 10th game to win the opening set 6-4.

Medvedev broke Mirza in the second and fourth games to race out to a 5-0 lead and fended off two break points in the fifth game. Basic got one break back in the eighth game and saved two match points on her serve in the next game.

In the ninth game Basic got another break in the ninth game to claw his way back to 4-5. He brought up two game points for 5-5 but Medvedev won four consecutive points to earn the decisive break to seal the win. Medvedev recently reached the Round of 16 at the Masters 1000 tournament in Toronto.

Jan Lennard Struff beat Benoit Paire 7-6 6-3 after 1 hour and 11 minutes to score his 14th win of the season. The German player converted all his four break points and won just 41 percent of his second serve points.

Struff fended off two of the four break points he faced. Both players traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games before Struff fended off another break point in the ninth game to send the match to the tie-break. The German earned a single mini-break to win the tie-break 7-5.

Both players traded breaks in the third and fourth games before Struff won the last four games with a double break in the seventh and ninth games to close out the match setting up a second round match against this year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato.

Andreas Seppi saw off Joao Sousa 7-5 6-4 in one hour and 23 minutes. The Italian veteran saved a break point in the 10th game before sealin the first set with his only break at deuce in the next game. The Italian player needed one break in the third game to close out the second set 6-4.

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Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lift their maiden Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati

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Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares claimed their maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati after coming back from one set down to beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 4-6 6-3 10-6.

The British and Brazilian team opened up a 3-1 lead, but they did not convert four break points. Cabal and Farah turned around the set by winning five of the next six points to take a 6-4 lead.

Murray and Soares fought back in the second set by breaking serve at 2-2, when Soares mishit a forehand lob return and cruised to a 6-3 win to force a match tie-break.

Cabal and Farah raced out to a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but Murray and Soares bounced back by winning 8 of the next ten points to win the match tie-break. Murray hit a forehand swinging volley to earn three match points. Murray and Soares converted their first opportunity, when Farah hit a forehand long.

Murray and Soares have won eight ATP Tour titles, including two Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open and at the US Open in 2016, but they had never celebrated a title at Masters 1000 title. Earlier this year they defended their title in Acapulco and lifted their second title of the year in Washington.

“For me to win my first Masters 1000 is obviously really exciting. It was an awesome week for us. To win the matches that we did against all top teams that are probably going to play in London. We played really good in the important moments, kept it together well” said Jaime Murray.

“It means a lot. That’s what we play tennis for, to win the big ones. We are playing great. We have been playing great since we got to Washington and I am extremely happy with everything. It was a first title for us at a Masters 1000 event, hopefully we could get many more”, said Soares.

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