Can De Minaur make it two out of two in Milan? (Alessio Tarpini/LPS via ZUMA Wire)
Day 2 of the Next Gen ATP Finals sees Casper Ruud take on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, while top seed, Alex De Minaur battles Miomir Kecmanovic for top spot in the second match of the day session.
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Casper Ruud (4) vs Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (7), 2:00pm local time/ 1:00pm GMT
Casper Ruud and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina seek their first wins at the Next Gen ATP Finals when they meet in Milan on Wednesday.
Both players lost their opening group matches on Tuesday- Ruud to Miomir Kecmanovic and Davidovich Fokina to top seed, Alex De Minaur- and will attempt to get off the mark when they go head-to-head in the first match on Day 2.
Ruud was beaten in straight sets to Kecmanovic, but there wasn’t much to choose between the two players for most of the contest. There were no break points throughout the first two sets, but Kecmanovic played the key points better to take the two tie breaks, before converting the only break point of the match en route a 4-3 4-3 4-2 victory.
The Norwegian is competing at the Next Gen ATP Finals for the first time after finishing seventh on the ATP’s Race to Milan. The major highlights of his season include a maiden tour-level final in Houston (lost to Cristian Garin), while he also made semi-finals in Sao Paolo and Kitzbuhel, reaching a career-high ranking of 54th in the process.
Also competing in Milan for the first time is former Wimbledon Boys’ champion, Davidovich Fokina, who ran top seed, Alex De Minaur close for a while in his tournament opener before falling in four sets.
The Spaniard took the second set tie break to even the contest, and then broke to start the third set, but De Minaur responded with an immediate break back, before running through the rest of the match for a 4-2 3-4 4-1 4-1 victory.
Davidovich Fokina has been in good form in closing months of 2019, winning Challenger titles in Seville and Liuzhou, and reaching a final in Genova. He had earlier contested a maiden tour-level semi-final in May, scoring notable wins over Taylor Fritz, Jeremy Chardy and Gael Monfils before losing to Pablo Cuevas. The 20-year-old, who was outside the top-200 at the start of the year, has peaked at No. 82 this season, finishing 10th in the Race to Milan.
Can he boost his semi-final hopes at the Next Gen ATP Finals by taking down Casper Ruud on Wednesday in the pair’s first meeting?
Alex De Minaur (1), vs Miomir Kecmanovic (5), to follow
Top seed, Alex De Minaur faces Miomir Kecmanovic at the Next Gen ATP Finals on Wednesday with the winner claiming top spot in Group B. Depending of the result of the earlier match, whoever wins this top-of-the-table clash could seal his spot in the semi-finals.
Serbian, Kecmanovic currently leads the group by virtue of his straight sets victory over Casper Ruud in his opening match, while De Minaur needed four sets to get past a battling Davidovich Fokina. Kecmanovic came through a serve-dominated contest against Ruud, holding his nerve at the crucial moments to pull off a 4-3 4-3 4-2 victory over the Norwegian. The Serbian was actually out-aced 3-12, but he was a lot more effective behind his serve, winning 92% of points on his first serve and facing no break points throughout the match.
“I’ve had some experience with this format, so I was prepared for it,” Kecmanovic said. “I served pretty well, so that got me through today. I was able to stay calm and play aggressively”.
Kecmanovic is looking to close out a fine season with the Milan title, which would be his first at tour-level. He came close to claiming that first title in Antalya in June, but lost in three sets to Lorenzo Sonego in his first career final.
He also made the quarter finals at the Masters 1000 meet at Indian Wells, along with the quarter finals in Atlanta, and third round in Washington and Cincinnati. The former junior No. 1 has been as high as No. 47 this year, having begun the season outside the top 100, while he currently sits at 60th in the rankings.
He’s got the big task of taking down top seed, De Minaur on Wednesday.
De Minaur was tested in his opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, with the Spanish seventh seed threatening the upset when he broke at the start of the third set- with the score at one-set all- but De Minaur produced a superb response to the challenge, winning eight of the next nine games to pull off the 4-2 3-4 4-1 4-1 victory.
“I just had to get in my head that I played a good second set. He just came up with big shots in big moments,” De Minaur said. “I had to move on and remember what I was doing well the whole match. I felt a lot more comfortable as soon as I got the break [in the third set].
“This year [in Milan] is completely different, not only the circumstances, but also who I am as a person. I’ve matured a lot on and off the court. Hopefully I can finish the year strong.”
The Australian is looking to go one step better than last season’s efforts in Milan, when he was beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. De Minaur went on to compile his best season in 2019, winning titles in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai, and making a final in Basel to rise into the top-20.
The world No. 18 will now look to take control of his Next Gen ATP Finals group when he faces Kecmanovic for the first time on Wednesday.