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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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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