Scouting Report: 10 Things To Watch In Milan
1) Next is Now: The ATP World Tour’s brightest young stars are in Milan for the second edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals. The #NextGenATP campaign began at the BNP Paribas Open on 8 March 2016, shining a light on 21-and-under players rising up the ATP Rankings. Seven of the eight men in Milan are in the world’s Top 100, led by No. 1 seed and World No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
2) Tennis Re-Imagined: Matches in Milan are the best-of-five sets to four games with tie-breaks at 3-all. There are no ads, service lets, doubles lines or line judges, with Hawk-Eye Live providing electronic officiating. Coaches may communicate with players via headsets between each set. New in 2018, players can request video reviews of subjective calls such as double bounces and net touches, there will be towel racks at the back of the court and a shorter four-minute warm-up.
3) Greece Lightning: Half of the players in Milan have career-high ATP Rankings this week, including Tsitsipas. The 20-year-old is the first Greek to be ranked in the Top 20 (career-best No. 15), win an ATP World Tour title (Stockholm), play in an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final (Toronto) and reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam (Wimbledon). Tsitsipas earned four straight Top 10 wins en route to the Toronto final.
4) Youth is Served: No. 2 seed Alex de Minaur is the youngest player in the field at age 19. De Minaur started the season at No. 208 and has set a career-high ATP Ranking 18 times since, peaking at No. 31 this week. The Aussie reached finals in his hometown of Sydney and in Washington, D.C., where there were four semi-finalists under the age of 22 for the first time on the ATP World Tour since 1995 Buenos Aires.
5) Friendly Rivals: Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz are the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds respectively. Born less than three months apart, Tiafoe and Fritz first met on the ITF Junior Circuit in October 2013. Both broke into the Top 50 in 2018, with Fritz rising to a career-high No. 47 this week. Tiafoe won his first title at Delray Beach in February and peaked at No. 38 on 13 August.
6) Russian Returns: No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev is back after reaching the championship match at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals. The 2017 top seed and qualified again despite missing three months this season with a lower back stress fracture. Rublev reached a career-high No. 31 on 19 February.
7) Polish Power: Like De Minaur, No. 6 seed Hubert Hurkacz started the season ranked outside the Top 200. The Pole qualified at two Grand Slam events and captured two ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2018. When Hurkacz hit No. 79 on 29 October, it was his 15th career-high ATP Ranking of the year.
8) Hope for Spain: On 18 June, 21-year-old Jaume Munar became the youngest Spaniard in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings since Rafael Nadal on 16 July 2007. The No. 7 seed trains at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, reached his first semi-final at Kitzbuhel and is now ranked a career-high No. 76.
9) Wild Thing: The Italian wild card is World No. 622 Liam Caruana, who defeated three countrymen in a qualifying tournament last week to earn his spot. Caruana, 20, rallied from two sets down in the semi-finals against Luca Giacomini before beating Raul Brancaccio from a set down in the final.
10) Springboard: Inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals players Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric, Daniil Medvedev and Hyeon Chung broke into the Top 20 in 2018. Khachanov capped a breakout year for the Class of 1996 by beating Novak Djokovic for the Rolex Paris Masters title on Sunday.