Hurkacz Completes Direct Qualifying For Next Gen ATP Finals
Poland's #NextGenATP star Hubert Hurkacz became on Tuesday the final direct qualifier for the Next Gen ATP Finals. The 21-year-old's direct qualification leaves only one place up for grabs at the eight-player tournament, to be held from 6-10 November in Milan. The final spot will be given to the winner of an Italian 21-and-under tournament to be finished on 4 November.
Hurkacz joins Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece; Australia’s Alex de Minaur; Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz; Andrey Rublev of Russia and Spaniard Jaume Munar, who have all already qualified for the event, which will again feature a series of rule changes and innovations. Germany qualifier Alexander Zverev will not compete because of his Nitto ATP Finals participation at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
Tsitsipas has been among the brightest breakout #NextGenATP stars in 2018, reaching three ATP World Tour finals and becoming the first Greek to win an ATP World Tour title at last week’s Intrum Stockholm Open. The Athens native also reached the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell final (l. to Nadal). As a 19-year-old in Toronto, Tsitsipas became the youngest player in ATP World Tour history to beat four Top 10 players at an event, overcoming Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson, prior to falling to Rafael Nadal in the final.
Watch: Tsitsipas In Focus
Few players of any age have climbed up the ATP Rankings this season as much as De Minaur. In December, the Aussie was No. 210 and this week he competes at a career-high No. 31. The 19-year-old, who is mentored by former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, has reached two ATP World Tour finals this season, at the Sydney International in January and the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., in August.
Tiafoe and Fritz are leading the Next Generation of U.S. talent, and both have shown their potential in 2018. Tiafoe won his first ATP World Tour title at the Delray Beach Open in February, beating Juan Martin del Potro, 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung and Shapovalov en route. Tiafoe also made his first clay-court final at the Millennium Estoril Open (l. to Sousa).
Watch: Tiafoe Qualifies For The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals
Fritz, meanwhile, has delivered on the early promise that saw him contest the 2016 Memphis Open final in only his third tour-level event (l. to Nishikori). This year, the 20-year-old reached two semi-finals (Houston, Chengdu) and his first fourth round at a Masters 1000 tournament (BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells).
Moscow native Rublev will make his second consecutive appearance in Milan. Last year, the Russian fell to Chung in the title match after leading by a set and 3-1. The 21-year-old Rublev had to miss three months of 2018 because of a stress fracture in his lower back, but he still made his second ATP World Tour final (Doha, l. to Monfils) and the semi-finals in Washington, D.C. (l. to De Minaur).
Watch Flashback: At Home With Rublev In Moscow
Munar had a tremendous season, becoming the youngest Spaniard in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings thanks to back-to-back ATP Challenger Tour titles in Prostejov, Czech Republic and Caltanissetta, Italy. Munar also reached the semi-finals of the Generali Open, an ATP World Tour 250-level event in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
A week before the ATP Race To Milan ended on 29 October, Poland's Hurkacz still had some work to do to try to secure his place at the Next Gen ATP Finals. The 21-year-old Pole was 11th in the Race, 50 points behind ninth-placed Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who, at the time, was in line to be the first alternate in Milan. But Hurkacz won his second ATP Challenger Tour title of the season in Brest, France. And with the withdrawal of Denis Shapovalov, Hurkacz will make his debut at the 21-and-under event.
The award-winning Next Gen ATP Finals will continue to trial a best-of-five set format, shorter sets to four (tie-break at three-all), no-ad scoring, and no lets. Other innovations, such as Electronic Line Calling through Hawk-Eye Live, a 25-second shot clock, in-match player coaching via head-sets, will also be back for this year’s edition. The player warm-up will be reduced by a further minute (from five minutes to four minutes) from the second player walk-on, while players will be instructed to use a towel rack at the back of the court to remove the onus on ball kids to handle towels.
Free crowd movement in the stadium and a limit of one medical time out per match will also remain. The tournament’s leading role in innovation comes at a key time when changes are being widely considered across the highest levels of the sport.
The technological advances used across the 2017 tournament were recognised earlier this year at the Yahoo Sports Technology Awards in London, where ATP & ATP Media won the Most Innovative Governing Body or Rights Holder Award. At the recent inaugural Leaders Sports Awards in London, the Next Gen ATP Finals won the Innovation category for the ATP and ATP Media’s live-streaming platform, Tennis TV, won the On Screen Experience category.
Editors' Note: This story was updated on 30 October to reflect Hurkacz's qualification following Shapovalov's withdrawal due to exhaustion.