NextGen ATP Finals: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex de Minaur headline in second year of innovation

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex de Minaur are among the players in action at the NextGen ATP Finals

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas Photo: Marianne Bevis

• Elite eight 21-and-under players drawn into round-robin groups

•  Innovative format and rules continue—shot clock, no line-judges, towel racks

•  Schedule, prize money, and player facts

The eight top-ranked players age 21 and under will begin their pursuit of the second #NextGen ATP Finals title in Milan this week as the men’s tennis tour heads into its November climax.

The highest ranked 21-year-old, world No5 Alexander Zverev, will miss the tournament in favour of the senior Finals in London, while teenage Canadian star, Denis Shapovalov, ranked No27 and third in the Race to Milan, has drawn his season to a premature end due to exhaustion.

The field, though, is topped by one of the most charismatic young players of the year, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who rose to a career high 15 after reaching his first Masters final in Toronto and then winning his first title in Stockholm last month.

The tall 20-year-old Greek leads Group A as the top seed, after being the first ‘alternate’ in the tournament last year. He is joined by three men he has yet to play on the tour: Frances Tiafoe, Hubert Hurkacz and Jaume Munar.

As the favourite to win the title after his surge up the ranks from 91 in January, he said with some justification: “I think I belong here.”

Alex de Minaur, age 19, made even bigger strides in 2018, from 208 at the start of the year to a current No33. The slight Australian started with a bang to make the semis on the home soil of Brisbane and then to the finals a week later in Sydney.

He played largely qualifying rounds and Challengers in the following months—with great success on British grass. His biggest run came soon after, to the final of the ATP500 in Washington. The Asian swing produced a semi finish in Shenzhen and the third round of the Shanghai Rolex Masters—thence to Milan as top seed in Group B.

He shares the group with Taylor Fritz, Andrey Rublev, and Italian wild card, Liam Caruana. De Minaur had a memorable win over Rublev in the semi-finals in Washington, saving four match points in a row on his way to a three-set, three-hour victory.

Runners and riders Group A

1 Stefanos Tsitsipas
Age 20; rank 16; win-loss 41-26; won Stockholm, finals of Barcelona, Toronto Masters

3 Frances Tiafoe
Age 20; rank 44; win-loss 26-23; won Delray Beach, final of Estoril

6 Hubert Hurkacz
Age 21; rank 79; win-loss 6-9; two Challenger titles from three finals

7 Jaume Munar
Age 21, rank 80; win-loss 9-10; two Challenger titles, SF of Kitzbuhel

Runners and riders Group B

2 Alex de Minaur
Age 19; rank 33; win-loss 24-21; finals of Washington and Sydney

4 Taylor Fritz
Age 21; rank 49; win-loss 22-18; no titles/finals, but SF Chengdu and Houston

5 Andrey Rublev
Age 21; rank 76; win-loss 17-21 [missed 3 months injured]; final Doha, SF Washington

8 Liam Caruana
Age 20; rank 622; wild card

Prize money

$52K participation fee; $32K for each a round-robin win (each plays three); $52K for fourth place; $78K for third place; $130K for runner-up; $235K for champion. If one man goes undefeated to the title, he will earn $407K.

Schedule: play begins Tuesday 6 November

2pm Tsitsipas vs Munar

4pm Fritz vs Rublev

7.30pm Tiafoe vs Hurkacz

9.30pm de Minaur vs Caruana

Formats, rules and innovations

The declared aim of the rule changes is to create a high-tempo, TV-friendly product geared towards attracting new and younger fans into the sport. Some proved to be a test-bed for introducing innovations to the main tour: For example, the entire US Open Series used an on-court shot-clock.

· Shorter sets: First to 4 games, with tie-break at 3-3, but matches best of 5 sets—designed to increase number of pivotal moments in a match, while playing same number of games, 12.

· No-ad scoring, no let on serve.

· Shorter warm-up: precisely 4 mins from when second player walks on court.

· Shot clock: used in between points to enforce 25-second rule, between sets, for medical time-outs and for warm-up.

· Medical time-outs: one per player per match.

· Player coaching allowed at certain points in match; coaches not be allowed on court.

· Crowd behaviour: free movement policy for crowd during matches (except behind the baselines).

· Line calls: all to be determined by Hawkeye; no on-court line judges.

NB New for 2018:

· Towel Rack: Players will use a towel rack at the back of the court rather than ball kids handling their towels.

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