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Milan | Next Gen gets off on wrong foot

In what is proving a massive public relations disaster, the ATP and Red Bull have had to apologise for the dubious show they put on for the draw of this week’s Next Gen Finals in Milan.

The event, new to the men’s calendar, is meant to highlight the next generation of stars and in many ways, possible new rules. The field is restricted to players aged 21 or under with matches reduced to best-of-five four-game sets with a tie-break at 3-3 and sudden death deuce points. In addition, play has to start within five minutes of entering the court where there will be no line judges with Hawk-Eye manning all the lines; no let calls (the ball will be played when it touches the net and falls into the service box); a visible 25-second-shot-clock will be visible on court and coaching will be allowed via headsets at the end of each set.

The public will also be allowed to move about during play.

All very proactive and intended to modernise the sport for broader appeal, especially amongst the younger generation.

But even before a ball was struck, the event was engulfed by a swarm of social media comments branding it as ‘sexist’ with Alize Cornet capturing the reaction best with her sarcastic tweet: “Good job ATP Tour, supposed to be a futuristic event, right?”

Other comments included Judy Murray who described it as ‘awful’ while Amelie Mauresmo said it was a ‘disgrace’.

It was clear the players were embarrassed as they were each asked to pick a model and then walk down the catwalk where, at the end, the model revealed a letter under her clothing to place her escort into Group A or B for the round robin stages.

One model lifted up her dress to flash her thigh, another got her player to pull her glove off with his teeth, while a third took off a jacket to show the letter B on her back.

The young stars made to undergo this salacious parade were Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev, Hyeon Chung, Jared Donaldson, Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric, Gianluigi Quinzi and Daniil Medvedev.

The controversial draw-ceremony drew a lot of negative comment eventually forcing the ATP to release a joint statement with Red Bull, apologising for the fiasco saying they “deeply regretted” the ceremony which was in “poor taste” and “unacceptable”.

“The ATP and Red Bull apologise for the offence caused by the draw ceremony for the Next Gen ATP Finals,” the statement read.

“The intention was to integrate Milan’s rich heritage as one of the fashion capitals of the world. However, our execution of the proceedings was in poor taste and unacceptable. We deeply regret this and will ensure that there is no repeat of anything like it in the future.”



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