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Next Gen ATP Finals 2018: Meet the young guns battling for Milan glory

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 5 Nov 2018
  • The best young player in the world are in Milan this week to compete at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, live from Milan from 6-10 November
  • We profile the eight players in the Milan field
Frances Tiafoe is one of the Next Gen stars hoping to go all the way in Milan this week. (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

The best young players in the world are in Milan this week to compete at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, live from Milan from 6-10 November.

Designed for players aged 21 and under, the Next Gen ATP Finals is in its second year, with Korea's Hyeon Chung winning the inaugural edition last season. Chung isn't present this year as he is over the age limit, but the 2018 tournament still boasts a qualify field headlined by rising Greek, Stefanos Tsitspas.

The Next Gen ATP Finals do not carry any ranking points, but matches count as official ATP matches, with the title, also classed as an official tour-level title. Will Tsitsipas go on to claim his second title of an outstanding season- or can anyone else in the field beat the Greek to the title?

Here's a quick look at the players who will be competing in Milan over the next week.

1. Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas (Photo by SOREN ANDERSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Age - 20
Ranking - 15
Carer-High Ranking- 15
Tour-level titles - 1 (Stockholm, 2018)
Other notable performances - Finalist, Barcelona and Toronto
2018 Win/ Loss - 41-27

Stefanos Tsitsipas was an alternate at the Next Gen ATP Finals last year, but he heads into this year's tournament as the top seed following an absolutely sensational season.

Tsitsipas claimed his first career title in 2018, beating Ernests Gulbis n the Stockholm final, while he contested two other finals- at the ATP 500 meet in Barcelona and the Masters 1000 event in Toronto, losing both to the great Rafael Nadal. His Toronto run was particularly impressive, as he took out four top-ten players, including Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic, on his way to the final.

Tsitsipas is an incredible 41-27 for 2018, having won just four matches last season! Among his other marquee results this year are semi-finals in Washington and Estoril as well as a fourth round run at Wimbledon- his best Grand Slam performance.

The world number 15, who was ranked 91st at the start of January goes into Milan as the favourite for the title.

2. Alex De Minaur

Alex de Minaur. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Age - 19
Ranking - 31
Career-High Ranking - 31
Tour-level titles - None
Other notable performances in 2018 - Finalist, Sydney and Washington
2018 Win/Loss - 24-22

What a season Alex De Minaur has had, jumping from a starting position just outside the top 200 in January to the verge of the top 30 in November. It's been an outstanding effort.

The teenager absolutely raced out of the blocks at the start of the year, reaching the semifinals in Brisbane and the final in Sydney. It was almost impossible to maintain that fiery start, and De Minaur duly dropped off, winning just two ATP World Tour main draw matches from then up until the end of the clay-court season. Within that period, he buffered his ranking with some decent runs on the Challenger Tour, reaching the final in Alicante, the semis in Braga and the quarter finals in Irving. 

He continued to excel on the Challenger Tour on grass, winning in Nottingham after making the Surbiton final. That set him up for his best Grand Slam performance at Wimbledon, where he made the third round before falling to Rafael Nadal. 

De Minaur had a strong spell on North American hard courts, contesting his second tour-level final in Washington (lost to Alexander Zverev), and reaching the third round of the US Open (lost an epic to Marin Cilic 7-5 in the fifth), while he also made the semifinals in Shenzhen and the third round in Shanghai as he found his feet during the home stretch. He couldn't quite finish as he'd have liked, losing consecutive opening matches in Stockholm and Paris to Philipp Kohlschreiber and Feliciano Lopez, both in tight three setters.

De Minaur earned a reputation as a fine battler through the course of the regular season, and regardless of how far he goes in Milan, which could well be all the way, one thing is for sure, he will leave it all out there.

3. Frances Tiafoe

Frances Tiafoe. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Age - 20
Ranking - 40
Career-High Ranking - 38
Tour-level titles - 1 (Delray Beach, 2018)
Other notable performances in 2018- Finalist, Estoril
2018 Win/Loss - 27-24

After missing out on last year's edition, Frances Tiafoe makes his Next Gen ATP Finals debut this week, looking to polish off a fine season.

Tiafoe heads to Milan as the 40th ranked player in the world, just two spots shy of his career-high ranking of 38th, which he attained in August after reaching the third round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. 

The 20-year-old American claimed his first career title at Delray Beach, beating Juan Martin del Potro, as well as fellow young guns, Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov along the way, before finishing off with victory over Peter Gojowczyk in the final, while he also made the final in Estoril, losing to Portugal's Joao Sousa. 

Other marquee results include a fourth round run in Miami, while he had his best Grand Slam run at Wimbledon, losing to Karen Khachanov in the third round, despite being two sets up on the Russian.

Tiafoe's recent form has not been good- he has not won consecutive ATP World Tour matches since August's Toronto Masters, winning just three matches in his final seven tournaments of the regular season. Can he up his level, and the results when he competes at the Next Gen Finals this week?

4. Taylor Fritz

Taylor Fritz. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Age- 21
Ranking - 47
Career-High Ranking - 47
Tour-level titles - None
Other notable performances in 2018 - Semi-Finalist, Houston and Chengdu; Winner, Newport Beach Challenger.
2018 Win/Loss - 22-18

American Taylor Fritz first broke into the scene as a teenager in 2016, reaching his first ATP World Tour final in Memphis, and ending the year as the youngest player in the top 100 at 76th in the world, after peaking at an impressive 53rd.

Fritz was one of the early front-runners among his Next Gen contemporaries, and was thus a big favourite to qualify for, and possibly win the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017, but he had a disappointing year, not helped by injuries, slipping as low as 136th and ending the year outside the top 100.

The 20-year-old American has come back strongly in 2018, and goes into Milan as a top 50 player. The world number 47 set the foundations for a fine season on the challenger tour in January, winning at Newport Beach and reaching the final in Noumea to get back into the top 100. He made the quarter finals in his first ATP World Tour tournament of the year at Delray Beach, while he followed it up with a fourth round run at Indian Wells, after reaching the semifinals at the Indian Wells challenger.

A decent start to his clay-court season included a semi-final in Houston and quarter final in Lyon, but he went off the boil after that, and did not win back-to-back matches until the US Open, where he reached the third round. Fritz backed that up with his second semi-final of the year in Chengdu, while he signed off on the regular season with a quarter final in Basel. With his big serve and forehand, Fritz will be very dangerous in Milan as he makes his debut at the Next Gen ATP Final.

5. Andrey Rublev

Andrey Rublev. (Photo by Di Yin/Getty Images)
Age - 21
Ranking - 68
Career-High Ranking - 31
Tour-level titles - 1 (Umag, 2017)
Other notable performances in 2018- Finalist, Doha; Semi-Finalist, Washington
2018 Win/Loss - 17-21

A finalist at the inaugural edition 2017, Andrey Rublev returns to Milan this year hoping to go one step further than he managed last season.

Rublev enjoyed a breakthrough 2017, finishing the year inside the top 40 after starting off outside the top 150. The Russian claimed his maiden career title in Umag, while he notably made the quarter finals of the US Open, beating Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin along the way. Rublev went on to reach the final of the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, but fell to Hyeon Chung.

The 21-year-old looked set to continue his rise after a solid start to 2018- he opened the year with a runner-up finish in Doha, and made quarter finals in Montpellier and Rotterdam, but he won just one match in his next four tournaments, and would subsequently sit out the next three months due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

Rublev returned to the tour in time for his title defence in Umag, reaching the quarter finals, while he made the semi-finals in Washington a couple of tournaments later, but he struggled badly after that, closing out the regular season on a 2-9 run.

Can a return to the Fiera Milano spark an end of season revival as the Russian targets his first title of the season?

6. Juame Munar

Jaume Munar. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Age - 21
Ranking - 74
Career-High Ranking - 74
Tour-level titles - None
Other notable performances in 2018- Semi-Finalist, Kitzbuhel, Winner, Prostejov Challenger and Caltanissetta Challenger.
2018 Win/Loss - 9-10

Juame Munar is another young gun who has broken into the top 100 after slipping out of the top 200 at some point this year. The Spaniard actually started the season at No. 184 in the world, but he dropped to 200th at the start of April after a slow beginning to the year. 

Predictably, he picked up the pace on clay, stunning David Ferrer in five sets at Roland Garros, having trailed by two sets to love before giving a decent account of himself in the second round against Novak Djokovic, losing but certainly not disgraced, 7-6 6-4 6-4.

Munar broke into the top 100 after that Roland Garros performance, and that precipitated his best spell of the season, as he claimed successive Challenger titles in Prostejov and Caltanissetta, a run of ten straight wins. He also made his first ATP World Tour semi-final in Kitzbuhel.

Munar wasn't as successful on his return to quicker surfaces, but he did make the third round at Winston-Salem and the second round at the US Open, where he beat Ruben Bemelmans in five before falling to Diego Schwartzman in four sets in the second round. That was his last significant act of the season, although he did sign off with a quarter final in the Brest Challenger, ending a run of five straight main draw losses at all levels.

Munar clearly does his best work on clay, but he did show that he can play on hard courts, and the tenacious Spaniard should not be underrated as he makes his Next Gen ATP Finals debut this week.

7. Hubert Hurkacz

Hubert Hurkacz. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Age - 21
Ranking - 85
Career-High Ranking - 79
Tour-level titles - None
Other notable performances in 2018- Winner, Poznan Challenger and Brest Challenger
2018 Win/Loss - 6-9

Hubert Hurkacz is one of the less familiar names in the Milan field, as he has not been as regular as the others on the ATP World Tour, but he has had an excellent season on the second tier Challenger Tour, claiming titles in Poznan and Brest, and making the final in Zhuhai. 

That Brest title-run in pushed him up to an alternate spot in the Race to Milan, and he qualified for the tournament after Denis Shapovalov pulled out due to exhaustion.

The 6ft 5in Pole, his country's No. 1 player, is only 6-9 for the season at tour-level, with his biggest win coming at Roland Garros, where he defeated Tennys Sandgren in the first round before pushing Marin Cilic to four sets in a second round loss. He also won tour-level matches at Washington and the US Open, and picked up three more wins at Davis Cup level to push his win tally up to six.

The Pole has made a huge climb up the rankings, moving up from 237th at the start of the year to a current ranking of 85th, having reached a career high ranking of 79th last week.

He may not be as illustrious as some of the other contestants in the 2018 Next Gen field, but he is a very dangerous customer, and could well claim a few scalps in Milan.

8. Liam Caruana

Liam Caruana. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Age - 20
Ranking - 622
Career-High Ranking - 375
Tour-level titles - None
2018 Win/Loss - 0-1

Definitely the least known of the eight contestants, world number 622, Liam Caruana takes his place the Milan field after winning the Italian 21-and-under wildcard play-off, a special spot reserved for the host nation.

Caruana is yet to win a tour-level main draw match in his career- although he did run Steve Johnson very close in Auckland  his only ATP World Tour main draw appearance in 2018, losing 7-5 7-6 to the American. Caruana has won just seven matches on the Challenger Tour through his career. He reached a career high 375th in the rankings in February. 

He did not win consecutive main draw matches at any level in 2018 until October, when he made the semi finals of the ITF tournament in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

The Next Gen ATP Finals is live from Milan from 6-10 November.

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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Next Gen ATP Finals 2018: Meet the young guns battling for Milan glory

The best young players in the world converge in Milan this week for the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals. Who are these young guns set to battle for Milan glory?

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