Milan | Tsitsipas gets the ball rolling
The ATP’s Next Gen Finals which are played under experimental rules with shortened matches, no let calls, coaching via headphones during changeovers, and ball-kids relieved of ‘towel duty’ amongst the changes, got underway in Milan on Tuesday with a mixture of experienced players and relatively unknown ones playing in two round robin groups with the top two qualifying for the weekend’s final stages.
One thing that I didn’t like that much was the towel rule. I had to run for the towel which was always on my mind when I was playing. The rest was pretty okay. I am not a big fan of the coaching rule on the court, to be honest. I think a player should find solutions by himself. Stefanos Tsitsipas
And, as the event’s title implies, the field consists of the best top eight players aged 21 or under.
Favourite for this year’s title, the second edition of the event, Stefanos Tsitsipas the 21-year-old Greek world No.15, opened the proceedings for Group A against Spain’s Jaume Munar and completed his expected win after one-hour and 52-minutes 4-3(5) 4-3(3) 3-4(4 4-2 in what proved a tight contest between two players of vastly differing experience.
“It was very stressful from the beginning of the match. Every point counts. You can get broken any moment. So there was a lot of stress, many tie-breaks,” Tsitsipas commented after the match.
“Great performance. Going to try to work on my serve in my next match and… grab my opportunity a little earlier because I didn’t do so today.”
As regards the experimental rules he added: “One thing that I didn’t like that much was the towel rule. I had to run for the towel which was always on my mind when I was playing. The rest was pretty okay. I am not a big fan of the coaching rule on the court, to be honest. I think a player should find solutions by himself.”
He will meet a much more experienced adversary in his second match, the American Frances Tiafoe who is also looking to make two wins from two matches after he beat Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 4-1 4-2 2-4 4-3(10).
“With this format things can get close quite quick. I like the rules but things were moving quick. The only rule I don’t like is the towel rack, especially as we are going pretty quick. I walk pretty slow, so I knew I could not get quite there so I had some time violations. I don’t know what the other guys have said, but I need the ball boys to get the towel for me – but I am having fun,” said Tiafoe.
Andrey Rublev, making his second appearance in Milan having reached the final last year, came through a five-setter to beat Taylor Fritz with the Russian scoring a 4-2 1-4 3-4(4) 4-3(2) 4-2 win.
“I played really well for this first match and I’m really happy because I beat such a great player, especially since the last time I lost against him,” Rublev said. “I’m really happy with my first match.”
He will battle Alex De Minaur for top spot in Group B in his second match after the Australian secured a 4-1 4-1 4-2 win over the Italian wildcard Liam Caruana in just 56-minutes in the late match.
“It was fun. The whole week I was really looking forward to playing with this new format and it was great,” De Minaur said. “I actually didn’t feel too much of a difference. I enjoyed every second out there. The atmosphere was great and I couldn’t think of a better way to start.”