World Number 15 and the recently declared ATP Most Improved Player, Stefanos Tsitsipas completed his year by winning the Next Gen title in Milan, defeating another greatly improved player, the ATP’s Newcomer of the Year, teenager Alex de Minaur.
t feels great. I’ve been playing some great tennis this week here in Milan Stefanos Tsitsipas
His 2-4 4-1 4-3(3) 4-3(3) victory over the 19 -year-old after one hour and 41-minutes makes him the second champion of this short-set formatted event after the inaugural event last year which saw Hyeon Chung top the eight-man field
Both Tsitsipas and De Minaur reached the final undefeated in a week which started with two Round Robin groups from which they emerged topping their respective groupings. They also cleared their semi-final opponents but were forced to battle through to the championships round by Jaume Munar of Spain and the Russian Andrey Rubelev, last year’s losing finalist.
“It feels great. I’ve been playing some great tennis this week here in Milan,” Tsitsipas said following his successful week. “It was a fantastic match. I stayed calm although I had a chance twice to win the match — but remained calm. I was aiming to win that match. I was mentally very strong and that was proven in the tie-break in the last set.”
There were just two breaks of serve in the close four-set match, with Tsitsipas winning the decisive points in the third and fourth sets. The Greek 20-year-old struck 22 winners to 15 unforced errors, while De Minaur stats showed a closer 23-24 ratio which reflected his aggressive and attacking approach on court.
The young Aussie who first came to notice when at the start of the season, he reached the finals at Sydney and Washington, earned his first break in the fifth game of the first set with a deep return, wrapping it up in the next with an ace.
Tsitsipas’s reaction was immediate. In the second set he broke serve in the second game, when De Minaur made a backhand error. He also fended off a break-back point to level the match.
De Minaur saved three break points in a fiercely contested third set, which was settled by the tiebreak where Tsitsipas reeled off five games in a row to gain a psychological advantage.
With the Greek sensing victory, he forced the pace in the fourth set but De Miaur denied him the title on two occasions in the sixth game and then won the ‘deciding point’ (no advantage played on deuce) to send the match into a tiebreak.
There Tsitsipas again took control and earned himself three championship points at 6-3 sealing the victory on the first of them to gain his second title of the year following his success in Stockholm last month.
While the event doesn’t count for ATP ranking points and stats, Tsitsipas does collect a nice payday of $407,000 for finishing the tournament undefeated
He received his trophy from ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode, commenting: “I am happy to play in this amazing city. I feel at home here. I have a special relationship to Milan. I won the Bonfiglio Junior tournament in Milan. I want to thank the crowd for the incredible atmosphere. Thanks to those, who made this tournament possible. Congratulations to Alex. He has great future. He deserves to reach the top and win many titles.”
In the play-off for third and fourth places, Andrey Rubelov required one hour and 47-minutes to defeat Jaume Munar 1-4 4-3(4) 2-4 4-2 4-3(3).
“It was a tough two matches (the semis and the play-off),” Rublev said on ending third. “In both I was strongly mentally. Yesterday I was a little unlucky. Today it was the opposite. I was a bit lucky. It’s nice to finish the year that strong mentally. I played four five-set matches. I hope this is the new beginning for next year.”