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The ATP Next Gen Finals, a showcase for future tennis stars

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The 2018 ATP Next Gen Finals have been officially presented to the Italian media during the official press conference at the Palazzina degli Orafi at City Life, the modern commercial and business district in Milan. The press conference was attended by AT Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode, FIT President Angelo Binaghi. Giovanni Gorno Tempini, President of Fiera Milano, Martina Cambiaghi, Councilor for Sport of Regione Lombardia, and Roberta Guaineri, Councilor for Sport of Milan City Council.

 

The second edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals will be held from 6-10 November 2018 at the Fiera Milan.

Denis Shapovalov from Canada, Frances Tiafoe from the USA and Alex De Minaur from Australia have secured their spot for the prestigious tournament with the top eight Under 21 players in the world joining the already qualified Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece.

“The Italian Tennis Federation is ready to set up a new edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals with ATP and Coni Servizi and the support of Fondazione Fiera Milano, Ente Fiera, Regione Lombardia and Milan municipality. Milan confirms its leading tradition in Italy and around the world in organizing top events for young players. The ATP Next Gen Finals will be a showcase for future tennis stars. Major junior tournaments like the Trofeo Bonfiglio, the Trofeo Porro Lambertenghi and the Trofeo Avvenire take place every year. Players, who have reached the top in the world of tennis, started their career in Milan. The 2018 season has been very successful for Italian tennis. For the first time since 1979 two Italian players have reached the top 20 in the ATP Ranking. Fabio Fognini won three tournaments in Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos. Marco Cecchinato lifted two trophies in Budapest and Umag, Camila Giorgi won her second title in Linz. We have a good group of young players. We are confident that we will be able to do better than last year. We expect this event to be not only very exciting, but also capable of responding fully to the needs of producing a great stage for tomorrow’s world tennis dominators. We also trust that our ATP Next Gen Finals will confirm Milan as a strategic for our national and international tennis movement. Last year Hyeon Chung won the first edition of the ATP Next Finals and went on to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open. This year the level is even higher than in 2017”, said FIT President Angelo Binaghi.  

The innovative tournament will continue the innovations, which were trialed at the inaugural tournament last year. The new rules include the best-of-five set format, shorter sets to 4 (tiebreak at 3-All), No-Lets and In-Match player coaching via head-sets. The player warm-up will be reduced by a further minute from 5 minutes to 4, and players will be instructed to use a towel rack at the back of the court to remove the onus on ball-kids to handle towels.

“Many people have asked me why we chose Milan as host city. It’s a simple question to answer and is summed up by two simple words: innovation and passion. People, who are behind the organization of this event have the passion for tennis. Italian people are passionate fans. Last year this tournament was very successful and that was was incredible for a first edition. Milan has the opportunity to see players, who are on the threshold of world excellence. The ATP Next Gen Finals is a launchpad for future players. The depth of this year’s tournament is really exceptional. Tsitsipas has reached the top 15, Shapovalov qualified for the Masters 1000 semifinals in Madrid. Our sport is very conservative, but it has to adapt to changes. We need to find a new generation of tennis fans and be brave and innovative. We will not rush innovations but do strategically”, said ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode.  

 The most eagerly awaited stars of this year’s edition are Denis Shapovalov and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov has qualified for the second consecutive year. He came close to reaching the semifinal in 2017 after a very successful season in which he became the youngest ATP Masters 1000 semifinalist since 1990 at the Canadian Open. This year the left-hander reached another Masters 1000 semifinal at the Madrid Mutua Open. He also qualified for two more semifinals in Delray Beach and Tokyo. He was born in Tel Aviv. He is the son of Tessa and Viktor Shapovalov. His mother was a former player and moved from Russia to Israel, where she became a tennis coach. The family moved from Canada before Denis’ first birthday.

Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas became the youngest player in ATP World Tour history to beat four top 10 players in Toronto’s Rogers Cup (Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev after saving two match points, and Kevin Anderson after fending off another match point). He became the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at 2007 Miami. He is coached by his father Apostolos. His Russian mother Julia Salnikova was a top Soviet player in the 1980s. His father helped Stefanos develop his aggressive game and his one-handed backhand.

Two US players Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz have already secured their spot in the line-up. Fritz reached his first ATP World Tour final in only his third tour-level event in Memphis where he finished runner-up to Kei in the 2008 Delray Beach Open. The 20-year-old player married Raquel Pedraza, who played at all four Grand Slam tournaments. Their first child Jordan was born in January 2017. Taylor’s father Guy was a former professional player and his first coach. His mother Kathy May Fritz won sevent WTA titles.

Tiafoe won his maiden ATP title last February in Delray Beach after beating Juan Martin Del Potro, Hyeon Chung, Denis Shapovalov and Peter Gojowczyk. He became the first wild-card recipient to win the Delray Beach title in the 26-year history and the youngest US champion on tour since Andy Roddick at 2002 Houston. His first idol was Juan Martin Del Potro. Tiafoe became the youngest player to reach an ATP Tour final on European clay in 30 years. His parents Frances and mother Alphina moved from Sierra Leone to the USA in 1996. When Frances was a kid, his father worked at the Junior tennis Champions Center in College Park in Maryland.

Australia’s Alex De Minaur reached a career-high of world number 31 after starting the year at world number 210 in the ATP Ranking. Last August Alex saved four match points against last year’s ATP Next Gen Finals runner-up Andrey Rublev in the semifnal of the Citi Open ATP 500 level tournament in Washington to reach the final.He also reached the semifinal in Brisbane and the final in Sydney. De Minaur works with Australian legend Lleyton Hewitt, who is Alex’s mentor during Grand Slam tournaments and Davis Cup ties. De Minaur’s father Anibal comes from Uruguay. His mother Esther is Spanish. They moved to Australia, when Alex was 13 years old.

There are still remaining spots. The favourites to clinch the remining two automatic spots are last year’s ATP Next Finals runner-up Andrey Rublev and Spain’s Jaume Munar. The eighth spot will be reserved for the winner of an Italian qualifying tournament to be held in Milan in the week before the ATP Next Gen Finals.

TAG Heuer will partner with the Italian Tennis Federation to become the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the ATP Next Gen Finals and will provide the on-court clock and the Shot Clock.

 

 

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‘He Needs To Bulk Up’ – Tennis Great Cast Doubt On Alex De Minaur’s French Open Chances

John Newcombe believes it will be a few more years before the world No.27 reaches his peak.

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One of Australia’s most decorated Grand Slam champions of all time believes compatriot Alex de Minaur still has a way to go before he poses a threat at the French Open.

 

Former world No.1 John Newcombe believes the 21-year-old needs to improve on his physicality before reaching his peak on the surface. De Minaur comes into the Grand Slam high in confidence after reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in what was his best performance at a major so far in his career. He was knocked out of the tournament by eventual winner Dominic Thiem.

Although De Minaur’s preparations for the clay took a blow last week after he lost the first round of the Italian Open to German qualifier Dominik Koepfer. The world No.27 had a set and 3-0 lead over Koepfer before losing. He is not playing in any tournament this week leading up to Roland Garros.

“I’d have to see the draw, how it comes out, but it will be hard work for him,” Newcombe told the Australian Associated Press about de Minaur’s chances in Paris.
“He’s going to have to do a hell of a lot of work. If he got to the quarters, it would be a terrific effort.
“He’s not going to be physically where he needs to be, just bulking up a bit, until he’s 25, 26.
“But he’s got a good all-court game and he understands the game well, so there’s no reason he can’t be a pretty good late maturer (on clay).”

This year’s clay-court major will be the fourth time the Australian has played in the main draw. In his three previous appearances, de Minaur has only won one match which was against Bradley Klahn last year.

During a recent interview with atptour.com, the Next Gen star gave little away about his expectations for the clay this year given the revised schedule. The French Open is taking place just two weeks after New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the sport to a five-month standstill earlier this year.

“Realistically, you never know until you step out and play matches. It’s a very quick turnaround, something that has never happened to play such an important event after a slam. I’m taking it all in, doing as best as I can and we will have to see,” he said.

De Minaur has won three ATP titles and has scored four wins over top 10 players so far in his career. He is currently the only player from his country ranked in the world’s top 40 on the ATP Tour.

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Novak Djokovic claims his 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome

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Novak Djokovic came back from 0-3 down in the first set to beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 53 minutes in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Djokovic claimed his fifth title in the Eternal City and his 36th Masters 1000 trophy and his 81st career title. Djokovic has become the oldest Rome champion. 

 

The World number 1 player extended his record in 2020 to an impressive record of 31 wins in 32 matches, including four titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, the Western and Southern Open in New York and Rome. 

Djokovic dropped his serve three times and earned five breaks of serve. 

Djokovic wasted a game point and dropped his serve, when he netted his backhand. Schwartzman hit four service winners in the second game to consolidate the break for 2-0. 

Djokovic made a backhand error to face a break point in the third game. Schwartzman earned his second break to open up a 3-0 after 18 minutes, as Djokovic netted another backhand.  Djokovic earned a break point chance and conveted it after a double fault from Schwartzman. 

Djokovic held serve at 15 with an ace in the fifth game to claw his way back to 2-3. The Serbian star forced an error from Schwarzman to earn a breka point in the sixth game and got the break, when the Argentine netted a forehand. Djokovic held serve at 15 to take a 4-3 in the seventh game. Schwartzman hit a forehand down the line winner at 30-15 in the eighth game and held serve with a service winner to draw level to 4-4. 

Djokovic saved a break point in the ninth game with a volley winner and held serve to take a 5-4 lead. Schwartzman saved a set point with a forehand winner and drew level to 5-5 after two deuces with a backhand the line winner. 

Djokovic held serve after a deuce to take a 6-5 lead forcing Schwartzman to serve to stay in the set for the second time. Djokovic converted his third set point to win the opening set 7-5 after 70 minutes. 

Schwartzman earned an early break at the start of the second set. Djokovic got the break back to draw level to 1-1 when Schwartzman sent a forehand wide. 

Djokovic hit a winner at the net to hold serve in the third game. Schwartzman hit four winners in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2.

Djokovic saved two break points in the fifth game and held serve with a service winner to take a 3-2 lead. Schwartman held serve with a drop shot. Djokovic won his service game at love to take a 4-3 lead and broke serve at love in the eighth game with a backhand down the line winner. Djokovic held serve at love to close out the final. 

“”It was a great week. A very challenging week. I don’t think I played my best tennis throughout the entire week, but I think I found my best tennis when I needed it the most in the decisive moments today, yesterday and in every match. That definitely makes me very satisfied and proud that I managed to find that fifth gear when it was most needed. Turning to Paris, I could not ask for a better tournament here in Rome. Another big title and i super pleased with it”, said Djokovic. 

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Stan Wawrinka Parts Way With Long-Time Coach Norman

Stan the man is on the look out for a new coach for the first time in almost a decade.

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It is the end of an era for three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka after he announced his split from coach Magnus Norman.

 

The former world No.3 confirmed on Monday that the two have decided to end their collaboration with ‘mutual consent’ following eight years working together on the Tour. Norman was last with Wawrinka at the Italian Open last week where the Swiss player lost his opening match to rising star Lorenzo Musetti. It is unclear as to exactly when the decision was made.

“After 8 great years together Magnus Norman and I have decided to part ways by mutual consent. We have had an amazingly strong, enjoyable and hugely successful partnership. We reached the height of this sport together and I want to thank him for helping me win everything that I could ever dream of winning,” Wawrinka said in a statement posted on Instagram.

44-year-old Norman is a former world No.2 player himself who reached the final of the French Open back in 2000. During his coaching career, he guided Wawrinka to various milestones in his career that includes 13 ATP titles with three of those being at Grand Slam level. The Swede has also been recognized by the ATP for his work with Wawrinka after winning the inaugural Coach of the Year award back in 2016.

“He’s been a great coach, friend and mentor and will always be a dear friend,” Wawrinka said in a tribute.
“I want to publicly thank him for all his hard work, dedication and commitment in making me a better player over the years. Winning three grand slams have been a life changing experience for me and I could not have done that without him. I wish him all the best in his next chapter in his life.”

The announcement from the world No.17 comes a week before the French Open starts. Wawrinka has been training on the clay for the past few weeks after deciding against travelling to North America to play in the US Open. Instead, he played in a couple Challenger events and won a trophy in Prague last month. Overall, he has achieved a win-loss record of 15-3 so far in 2020.

It is unclear as to who will be replacing Norman in Wawrinka’s team.

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