Italian wildcard, Jannik Sinner faces Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic at the Next Gen ATP Finals on Friday, with a spot in the final on the line.
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It has been a brilliant run from Sinner, who has become the first wildcard to reach the last four of the Next Gen ATP Finals. Prior to this season’s edition, Italian players had gone 0-6 in this tournament, but Sinner has changed that narrative, powering into the semi-finals to the delight of the Milan crowd.
To be fair, Sinner is no ordinary Italian wildcard. Unlike the previous wildcards, the teenager was actually thought to have a great chance of making a significant impact in this tournament following his meteoric rise in 2019. He was 11th on the ATP’s Race to Milan, and was just one spot outside the automatic qualifying places (considering the withdrawals). The 18-year-old started the year outside the world’s top-500, but he will finish inside the top-100 following a very impressive campaign. Sinner won his first two Challenger titles in Bergamo and Lexington, while he also made his maiden tour-level semi-final in Antwerp towards the end of the year, rising to a career-high ranking of 93rd in the process.
He opened his Next Gen ATP Finals campaign with a thrilling four-set victory over second seed Frances Tiafoe before backing it up with a powerful 4-0 4-2 4-1 win against Mikael Ymer. He couldn’t quite go 3-0 in the round-robin phase, as he fell to Ugo Humbert in four sets in his final group match, but the work had already been done earlier in the week, with the Italian teenager finishing top of his group ahead of his more established opponents.
His reward is a semi-final meeting with Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic.
Apart from his second group match against Alex De Minaur, which he lost fairly comfortably (4-1 4-3 3-4 4-0), Kecmanovic has been very good in this tournament, scoring straight sets victories over Casper Ruud and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina either side of that defeat to De Minaur.
The Serbian put up his best showing of the tournament in his final group match against Davidovich Fokina, rattling through a 4-1 4-1 4-3 victory in just 58 minutes. He lost just five points on serve, and did not face a break point throughout the match. There was a slight hiccup in the third set tie break, with Davidovich Fokina holding two set points at 6-4, but Kecmanovic won the next four points to close out a very impressive victory.
“I was a lot calmer than yesterday. I was happy to play well and be stable out there,” Kecmanovic said. “There was definitely a lot of pressure on this match today and I think I handled it better than he did. I have a bit more experience on Tour playing big matches and that helped me a lot today.”
An fine season for Kecmanovic has already yielded a maiden tour-level final in Antalya, while he also made a Masters 1000 quarter final at Indian Wells. The 20-year-old also reached the third round in Washington and Cincinnati, scoring his first top ten win (over Alexander Zverev) in that Cincinnati run.
Can he take down home favourite, Sinner to reach the Milan final on Friday night?
“I watched his matches,” Kecmanovic said of Sinner. “It’s definitely going to be tough playing against everybody here in the crowd, but I have been playing good. I’m feeling good.”
Sinner may be the lower ranked player, but he arguably enters this match as the slight favourite, based on how well he has played in Milan this week. He would have loved to finish the round-robin phase with a 3-0 record to keep the momentum going, but the job had already been done by then, and I expect that he will be back to his electrifying best on Friday, which may be just too good for Kecmanovic.
Jannik Sinner vs Miomir Kecmanovic is live from Milan on Friday, 8 November from 9:00pm local time/ 8:00pm GMT