Report: Next Gen ATP Finals Day One

The next generation of tennis is a phrase often used in hope rather than expectation. Can these players really take over the mantle held by the “big three” for so many years? The Next Gen ATP Finals is an exciting event and those who have won it have gone on to challenge at the very top. 

This year is the third edition of the event with the first being won by South Korea’s Hyeon Chung who beat the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Borna Coric and Karen Khachanov to the title. The following year, Chung reached the semi-final of the Australian Open but has been plagued by injury ever since. Stefanos Tsitsipas won last year’s edition and has since entered the top ten and beat the best players in the world. 

This year, with Canada’s two young stars Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime withdrawing, there are a couple of lesser-known names in the mix. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina from Spain is currently ranked 82 in the world and he has won two challenger titles this year as well as reaching the semi-final in the tour event in Estoril. Sweden’s Mikael Ymer shot up the rankings this year from 288 to 73. He won four challengers this year and will be hoping to end the year on a high. 

The rules of the Next Gen ATP Final are different to any other tournament on the circuit. The sets are first to four games with no-ad scoring and it’s a best-of-five match. They also have a shot clock, no line judges and are allowed on court coaching. 

The event opened with two debutants facing off. Norway’s Casper Ruud against Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanović. Both players made excellent starts with fast-paced service holds. It makes it difficult to imagine Rafael Nadal playing in those conditions, but maybe that’s the point. The first two sets saw no breaks of serve with Kecmanovic winning both on tie breaks. Ruud had got the lead in the second set tie break but couldn’t hold on. Kecmanovic finally got a break in the third set to take it 4-2 and giving the Serbian an impressive start. 

The second match was an entirely different affair with runner up from last year, Alex De Minaur, playing Davidovich Fokina. De Minaur was huge favourite and showed why from the start with his opponent looking nervous. De Minaur soon took the first set 4-2. However, Davidovich Fokina soon got his act together with the usually energised De Minaur looking quite fatigued after a long season. This led to the second set tie break going the Spaniard’s way to pile the pressure on De Minaur. Davidovich Fokina then broke in the first game of the third set with De Minaur looking rattled. However, the world number 18 stamped down his authority by taking the next four games to win the set 4-1 and then won the fourth set 4-2 to take the match.

The evening session began with French talent Ugo Humbert taking on Ymer. Surprisingly, the Swedish star took the match 4-3 1-4 4-2 4-1 after Humbert took a medical timeout. 

The final match of the day saw the one the Italian crowd had been waiting for with 18-year-old Jannik Sinner upsetting second seed Francis Tiafoe. Sinner started the year ranked outside the world’s top 500 but is now in the top 100 and proved why in front of his home fans. He played some outstanding shots and won 3-4 4-2 4-2 4-2. 

Sub-Edited by Matthew Watkinson

This image by David Jones complies with the Creative Commons License.

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