ATP Next Gen Finals Preview: Lorenzo Musetti Favourite on Home Soil - UBITENNIS
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ATP Next Gen Finals Preview: Lorenzo Musetti Favourite on Home Soil

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The fifth edition of the Intesa Sao Paolo Next Gen Finals gets underway on Tuesday. Top seed Holger Rune will be missing from the field, but Italian Lorenzo Musetti will catch much of the attention in Milan.

 

Musetti leads the Red Group, featuring Jack Draper, Chun-Hsin Tseng and Dominic Stricker.

Brandon Nakashima is the highest ranked player in the Green Group and faces Jiri Lehecka, Francesco Passaro and Matteo Arnaldi. Rune was set to lead this group, but withdrew following his extraordinary title run in Paris.

The young Dane will instead be first alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.

Musetti is the tournament’s favourite, but will face the second highest ranked player in the tournament in Jack Draper. The Brit won their only previous meeting at them Wimbledon juniors in 2018.

Draper has enjoyed a breakout season, with notable wins over Felix Auger-Aliassime and Stefanos Tsitsipas. He is ranked in the world’s top 50 and is set to improve on that ranking in 2023.

Stricker is at a career high ranking of 116, and is likely to make his main draw debut at a Grand Slam next season. Taipei’s Tseng may be the biggest threat to either Musetti or Draper in the group stages. The world number 90 is the second highest ranked man from Asia in the ATP rankings.

2022 has been an impressive season for America’s Nakashima. The 21-year-old reached the US Open third round, defeating Grigor Dimitrov en route, and the fourth round at Wimbledon, where he put out 2021’s semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov.

The American may be challenged by Czech Republic’s Jiri Lehecka, ranked 75 in the world. Lehecka has also beaten Dimitrov and Shapovalov this season in two of his most impressive wins. He also reached the semi-finals of the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam earlier this year.

21-year-old Italians Passaro and Arnaldi are both on the cusp of breaking the world’s top 100. There are currently six Italians ranked in the top 100 including Musetti and fellow young counterpart Jannik Sinner.

New Rules Set To Be Trialled in Milan

The ATP and Italian Tennis Generation announced some innovative rules that will be trialled at the Finals.

One of the rules to be trialled is a quicker shot clock than the usual 25 second rule on the ATP. The time in-between points will be shortened to 15 seconds if the server hits an ace, a double fault or if the returner misses the return through forced or unforced error.

In addition, breaks will be reduced in time. There will be no changeovers at the end of the opening game of a set. Players will also only have 90 seconds at the end of each set, reduced from 120.

Coaching will be permitted at the event on the same basis as applied in the coaching trial on Tour with one addition: A player will be allowed to talk to his coach if his opponent takes a medical time-out or toilet break.

The tournament consists of a round-robin format, just like the ATP and WTA finals. Matches are best of five sets, with a player needing four games to win a set. There will be tie-breaks at three games all to decide the winner of a set.

The top two players from each group progress to the semi-finals, with the final taking place on Saturday.

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LTA Fined One Million Dollars By ATP For Banning Russian Players From Grass Court Season

The LTA have been fined one million dollars by the ATP.

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Daniil Medvedev (@marioboc17 - Twitter)

The LTA has been fined one million dollars from the ATP after banning Russian players from competing at this year’s grass court tournaments.

 

This news follows the WTA taking the same action earlier this year after the LTA became the first organisation to ban Russian players from playing its tournaments.

At the moment on the ATP tour Russian players can currently play but play under a neutral flag which is the same thing on the WTA tour.

However the LTA decided to follow the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s decision which was to ban Russian players from playing grass court tournaments in England.

Now the ATP have responded by not only denying players ranking points at the time but have now fined the LTA one million dollars.

In a statement the LTA admitted that they were disappointed with the outcome and await not only the outcome of their appeal against the WTA’s decision but also await what response they will have to the ATP.

There has also been a threat from the ATP that if the LTA were to do the same thing in 2023, then they would face expulsion from the ATP.

However it’s not just the tennis governing bodies that have responded to the ATP as the UK culture secretary Michelle Donlan has also criticised the decision, “Over the past year, the vast majority of the international sporting community have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning in Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric actions in Ukraine,” Donlan said.

“The UK has taken a world-leading role to build this international response. We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimise this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian and Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries.

“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result.

“This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”

What the future holds remains to be seen with just over seven months until Wimbledon.

Whether the LTA’s appeal will be successful will be questionable and whether the ATP and WTA will change their stance is also questionable.

But one thing is for sure and that is the political tensions in tennis and outside of tennis are far from over.

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Rafael Nadal ‘Excited’ For Showdown With Alcaraz In Las Vegas 

‘The Slam: Nadal Vs. Alcaraz’ will take place in the lead-up to Indian Wells with a charity fundraising event also being held. 

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MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - APRIL 23: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain in the final on day eight of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club on April 23, 2017 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo via https://newsroom.mgmresorts.com)

The current top two players in men’s tennis will lock horns in Nevada next March after agreeing to take part in an exhibition match organized by MGM Rewards. 

 

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal will play against each other at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5th which will be hosted by MGM Resorts International. The 16,800-seat multi-purpose venue has also previously hosted a series of boxing matches, as well as this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony. 

The two Spanish tennis giants will also participate in a 90-minute individual VIP clinic before taking to the court. There will also be a ‘celebrity’ doubles match which will feature both of the Bryan brothers. One of the most successful double pairings in history who have won 16 Grand Slam titles together. 

“I’m very excited for my first visit to Las Vegas, one of the most iconic and entertaining cities in the world,” Nadal said in a press release. “I’ll be playing with my fellow countryman Carlos Alcaraz who’s had an amazing year. It should be a great night of tennis at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.”

19-year-old Alcaraz is the youngest player in ATP history to achieve the year-end No.1 ranking and is viewed as the successor to 22-time major winner Nadal. The duo have clashed three times on the Tour with Nadal winning two of those meetings. Although Alcaraz was triumphant the last time they clashed at the Madrid Masters. 

“I’m honored and so happy to be sharing the court with Rafa in Las Vegas. He’s an all-time great, of course, and his records and achievements speak for themselves. Rafa also is one of the nicest guys on Tour and I look forward to our match on March 5.” Said Alcaraz.

Immediately after their match on March 5th, THE SLAM Gala will be held at Rivea and Skyfall at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The fundraising event has been created to raise money for Nadal’s foundation, as well as the MGM Resorts Foundation and National Tennis Foundation. 

Tickets for Alcaraz’s match with Nadal will go on sale from December 9th and are priced at $75 upwards. 

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Gael Monfils Targets Spot At Home Olympics Before Retirement 

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Image via ATP Twitter

Gael Monfils may be starting his 2023 season later than usual but he isn’t contemplating stepping away from the sport anytime soon. 

 

The former top 10 star has been absent from the Tour since August due to a foot problem during what has been an injury-stricken year for the Frenchman. Monfils also missed the French Open and Wimbledon due to a heel injury which required surgery. Overall, he has won 14 out of 21 matches played on the Tour in 2022. 

Providing an update on his current fitness during an interview with Canal+, Monfils confirmed that he will not be playing at the Australian Open in January which will be the fourth major tournament in a row he has missed. Whilst his recovery is progressing well, he is targeting a return during the clay season which concludes at the French Open. He is also unable to access his protected ranking at Melbourne Park because the rulebook states that a player must be absent for at least six months to be eligible. 

“I know that there is a protected ranking, when you don’t play for a certain amount of months. I know that if I take it, I have to not play the Australian Open to reach the six months needed and that will be my decision,” Tennis Head quotes Monfils as saying.

However, the 36-year-old isn’t planning to stop playing just yet with aspirations to play at his home Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris in 2024. Monfils is already a three-time Olympian and has reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice before. 

Despite some speculation over his retirement, Monfils hopes to continue playing until the age of 40. Although he admits this depends on his family after he and his wife Elina Svitolina welcomed their first child earlier this year.

“2023 is an important year for me, a year of transition, transition between my injuries and the fact to be competitive to try to qualify for Paris 2024. I would not like to miss the Olympics, it would be my last one,” he added.
“I hope that 2024 would not be my last year but maybe the one after that. Before, I said that I wanted to play until I’m 40 but the more time I spend with my daughter, the more time I’m thinking maybe I’ll play a bit less.”

Monfils has won 11 Tour titles so far in his career, including this year’s Adelaide International. He has reached at least one final every year since 2005. 

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