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Groups Set For The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals

Play begins Tuesday at the Fiera Milano

Eight #NextGenATP players are set to compete in Milan for the second annual Next Gen ATP Finals title.

On Sunday evening, the eight Milan contenders: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Andrey Rublev, Jaume Munar, Hubert Hurkacz and Liam Caruana were split into two groups, within which each player will contest three matches, with two competitors per group emerging into the knockout semi-finals.

Group A
Stefanos Tsitsipas
Frances Tiafoe
Hubert Hurkacz
Jaume Munar

Group B
Alex de Minaur
Taylor Fritz
Andrey Rublev
Liam Caruana

Tsitsipas, who defeated four Top 10 opponents en route to the Toronto final and lifted his first ATP World Tour trophy in Stockholm last month, is No. 16 in the ATP Rankings, the highest-ranked player in the field.

The Greek leads Group A, in which there are three other players whom he has never contested a FedEx ATP Head2Head match against. Joining the event’s top seed are American Frances Tiafoe, Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz and Spaniard Jaume Munar.

“I think our group is much better than Group B,” Tsitsipas said on stage at the Nhow Hotel, joking.

In seriousness, Tsitsipas is in a far different position at this season’s Next Gen ATP Finals. One year ago, the Greek was an alternate in Milan. Now, he is one of the leading candidates to capture the tournament’s second crown, following in Hyeon Chung’s footsteps.

“I’m really satisfied,” Tsitsipas said. “I think I belong here.”

The only Group A athletes who have played one another at tour-level are Tiafoe and Hurkacz. Tiafoe defeated Poland’s top player in straight sets at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

The American has enjoyed the best season of his career, winning his maiden ATP World Tour title at the Delray Beach Open and climbing as high as No. 38 in the ATP Rankings. The 20-year-old will hope that experience helps him earn a berth in the Milan semi-finals.

Group B is led by De Minaur, an Aussie who advanced to his first two ATP World Tour finals (Sydney and Washington, D.C.) and also captured his maiden ATP Challenger Tour trophy in 2018. De Minaur ascended as high as No. 31 in the ATP Rankings this year.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting this,” De Minaur said. “It’s been a great year, I’ve played some unbelievable tennis.”

The 19-year-old will hope that continues at the Fiera Milano, where he was grouped with American Taylor Fritz, 2017 Milan competitor Andrey Rublev and Italian wild card Liam Caruana.

Both De Minaur and Fritz have defeated Rublev in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. It’s hard to forget De Minaur’s win over the Russian, which came in the semi-finals of the Citi Open earlier this year. The Australian saved four match points in a row from 2/6 down in the second-set tie-break before eventually moving into his first ATP World Tour 500-level final after two hours and 52 minutes.

Fritz ousted Rublev in more straightforward fashion, dismissing the 2017 Umag champion in straight sets at this year’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Caruana will try to be the ‘x-factor’ in the group, as he carries the momentum of three wins in three days in the Italian 21-and-under wild card event.

While Caruana has played just one tour-level match, he knows Fritz well, residing in Texas and practising with him in the past. The Italian also played both De Minaur and Rublev once each when they were juniors.

And while the FedEx ATP Head2Head series don’t favour Rublev, the Russian can rely on his experience competing in Milan last year, when he advanced to the championship match.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Rublev said.