Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the Next Gen ATP Finals.
So tell us, how did you enjoy this most loaded week on the tennis calendar last week?
On the men’s end, the Paris Masters 1000 had a final four with the two best players in the draw (though only one competed—what’s the excuse this time, Nadal? 😉 lol) as well as another two somewhat surprising players. Over on the WTA, women’s tennis held its big party and, just like everyone had predicted, we had a final between top seed Ashleigh Barty and eighth seed Elina Svitolina. In the end, it’s Barty who emerged victorious with the $4.7 million in prize money.
With this result, the WTA season is all but over before starting again in the new year. Men’s tennis, meanwhile, takes another couple of weeks to celebrate the very best of the best players on tour, as well as the very best of the youngest, before closing things off for a mere handful of weeks.
First up is this week’s Next Gen ATP Finals, held in gorgeous Milan. As we’ve done throughout the season, let’s see if we can’t predict how this draw might shake out.
The absentees: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov
The three players would have been, respectively, the first, third and fourth qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals but have pulled out for a variety of reasons: Stefanos Tsitsipas because he qualified for next week’s ATP Finals, and the two Canadians due to a left ankle malaise (Felix Auger-Aliassime) and fatigue (Denis Shapovalov). In other words, all three wanted to be elsewhere—only Tsitsipas managed to do so.
The favourite: Alex De Minaur
Don’t look now but Alex De Minaur is up to No. 18 in the world? Ahead of luminaries and supposed future studs Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov? Goddamn. You could say that the Australian has had himself a year with three singles titles to go along with a singles final. Anything other than a title in Milan should feel disappointing for the 20-year-old.
The wily veteran American: Frances Tiafoe
Here he is, one half of the two-headed latest hope of American men’s tennis. Frances Tiafoe makes a second straight and, at almost 21 years old, almost assuredly his last appearance here at the Next Gen ATP Finals. While he couldn’t quite equal his 2018 season this year, Tiafoe can still challenge top players on his best days.
The dark horse candidate: Ugo Humbert
The 21-year-old Frenchman might have a losing record at 16-20 this year but he’s scored a number of impressive wins in 2019, having defeated folks like Pablo Cuevas, Borna Coric, Gael Monfils, Marcel Granollers and Auger-Aliassime (the latter three all at Wimbledon), Robin Haase, David Goffin and Guido Pella. If De Minaur trips up, it might be because of Ugo Humbert.
The happy-to-be-here candidates: Casper Ruud, Miomir Kecmanovic
Miomir Kecmanovic rose to fame by beating Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev over the summer at the Western & Southern Open, as he’s somehow managed to grab a 22-20 record in 2019. Casper Ruud, meanwhile, is the 20-year-old who’s turned pro way back in 2015 and who’s managed a final in Houston this year; while his draw to get there wasn’t particularly impressive, a final is still a final. Perhaps you prefer his run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he defeated Kecmanovic in the qualifying round and then Daniel Evans and Nick Kyrgios before bowing down to Juan Martin del Potro in the third round?
The «Who?» candidates: Mikael Ymer, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Yeah I mean, we’re sorry but we’re drawing a blank here: we have nothing on either of them oops.
The people’s champ: Jannik Sinner
The 18-year-old is ranked No. 93 in the world and he’s competing in Milan as a wild card. Who knew you were allowed wild cards even at the Next Gen Finals?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG