After Three Months, Americans Top ATP Race To Milan
Tennis fans have heard of their potential for years. #NextGenATP players such as Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Andrey Rublev have been touted by coaches and analysts frequently during recent times.
But thus far in 2018, fans have also had many opportunities to see the Next Generation in action as the 21-and-under contenders continue to steal headlines on the ATP World Tour.
Tiafoe, Fritz and Rublev lead the ATP Race To Milan after the first quarter of the season. The Race will determine seven of the eight 21-and-under players (born 1997 or later) who compete at the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 6-10 November in Milan. The eighth player will be determined by wild card.
View The Race To Milan Standings
Tiafoe's breakthrough early in 2018 has put him on top of the Race. The 20-year-old American won his maiden ATP World Tour title in February at the Delray Beach Open, beating Juan Martin del Potro, Hyeon Chung and fellow #NextGenATP player Denis Shapovalov along the way.
Tiafoe also matched his best result at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, making the Round of 16 at the Miami Open presented by Itau last week (l. to Anderson).
“Delray taught me a lot. I beat some quality players back-to-back-to-back, which I've never done. I've played so many matches in my career so far where I played unbelievable, came up just short. Now I'm feeling really comfortable when it gets tight. I actually embrace it, I want it,” Tiafoe said.
Fritz also experienced his best run at a Masters 1000 tournament last month. The 20-year-old reached the fourth round at his favourite tournament, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. He saved a match point in his opener against friend and fellow #NextGenATP player Reilly Opelka, then beat Rublev and Spain's Fernando Verdasco before losing in three sets to eventual semi-finalist Borna Coric.
Before Indian Wells, Fritz won the ATP Challenger Tour event in Newport Beach (d. Klahn) and made the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open (l. to Shapovalov).
“This year for me has been very consistent. I have had a lot of strong results... I think I can build on this and make this more of a regular thing. I feel confident that I'm not playing, like, out of my mind or anything,” he said.
It speaks to how well Tiafoe and Fritz have been playing that Rublev, last year's Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up (l. to Chung), is currently in third place in the Race. The 20-year-old Russian has had deep runs this year as well. He made his second ATP World Tour final in Doha (l. to Monfils) and the quarter-finals in Montpellier (l. to Tsonga) and Rotterdam (l. to Dimitrov).
“To be more consistent is the goal,” Rublev said.
Other early Race leaders in contention are Aussie Alex de Minaur, Shapovalov, Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas and Aussie Marc Polmans. De Minaur (Brisbane SF, Sydney F, Indian Wells R2) Shapovalov (Delray SF, Miami R4) and Tsitsipas (Doha QF, Dubai QF, Indian Wells R2) have all made their gains in tour-level action, while Polmans has excelled on the ATP Challenger Tour and at Futures tournaments.