Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe headline the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals draw in Milan as the season’s best eight players aged 21 and under battle it out for the title.
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After finishing runner-up last year to Stefanos Tsitsipas, de Minaur returns 12 months later as the top seed and a top 20 player, headlining Group A alongside Casper Ruud, Miomir Kecmanovic and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who replaces Denis Shapovalov in the field.
Meanwhile, Tiafoe is the second seed and leads Group B, where he is joined by Ugo Humbert, Mikael Ymer and Italian wildcard Jannik Sinner.
It’s set to be a thrilling week at the Fiera Milano as the brightest young prospects in tennis square off for the right to become the third Next Gen ATP Finals champion – read on as we predict who will emerge from each group and go on to win the title!
Alex de Minaur
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
De Minaur is without doubt the strong favourite to top this group and return to the semi-finals. The Australian has won three ATP titles in 2019 and cracked the top 20 last week after finishing runner-up at the 500-level Swiss Indoors in Basel to Roger Federer. Despite missing two months earlier in the season with a groin injury, de Minaur has taken his game to the next level and will take some stopping this week – although his opponents could take some getting used to, especially in the shortened format, with the 20-year-old set to face all three of his Group A rivals for the first time.
If, as expected, de Minaur tops the group, Next Gen Finals debutants Ruud, Kecmanovic and Davidovich Fokina will be fighting for the second knockout spot. Out of the three, Kecmanovic and Ruud are the only players to have faced each other before, with the Norwegian winning easily in Rome qualifying earlier this season. Both Kecmanovic and Ruud reached their maiden ATP Finals this season in Antalya and Houston respectively, while Davidovich Fokina’s best result at tour-level this year was a semi-final run in Estoril – which incidentally was the only time he won tour-level matches in 2019, although he has won two Challenger crowns.
In these indoor conditions and with the abbreviated format, it’s really anyone’s chance, but I’m leaning between a Kecmanovic/Ruud shootout for the second semi-final ticket.
Alex de Minaur
Group B looks much more open to me. Tiafoe compiled a brilliant start to the season as he made his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open and maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami, but he’s only won 14 other matches for the season, which isn’t that impressive for the top seed in the group. Tiafoe also suffered a defeat recently in Antwerp against 18-year-old sensation Sinner, who is arguably in the best form out of anyone (except de Minaur) coming into the tournament.
Sinner has improved his ranking over 1,000 spots over the last 14 months and is currently the youngest player in the top 100, earning a career-best win over Gael Monfils en route to his first ATP semi-final in Antwerp a couple of weeks ago. With the home crowd support, Sinner could be the man to beat in Group B, but we can’t discount Humbert, who has gone under the radar when it comes to Next Gen stars. The Frenchman has improved his ranking from outside the top 100 to No. 56 in 2019, winning 16 tour-level matches, while he won a Challenger title in Brest in his last tournament. Ymer is also a contender for the semis, with the Swede winning back-to-back Challenger titles in Orleans and Mouilleron le Captif in October, shooting from outside the top 100 to No. 73 in the space of a month.
De Minaur vs Humbert
Sinner vs Ruud
De Minaur vs Sinner
The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals is live from Milan between November 5-9.