Three Breakout Milan Performances To Remember
If you’re looking to predict who will make noise on the ATP Tour next season, the Next Gen ATP Finals have proven to be an excellent barometer.
Several current and past #NextGenATP stars have used the tournament as a springboard to their career-best seasons on Tour, often creating headlines mere months after their breakout runs in Milan. NextGenATPFinals.com looks back at three of the most inspired performances at this event.
Hyeon Chung - 2017
The South Korean was seventh in the ATP Race To Milan and one of the last players to qualify for this event, but punched well above his weight when play began. The South Korean swept all three of his matches in Group A, then finished off a dramatic five-set semi-final against Russian Daniil Medvedev with a 4-0 shutout in the decider.
The man known as “The Professor” finished at the top of the #NextGenATP class by rallying from a set down to defeat Russian Andrey Rublev 3-4(5), 4-3(2), 4-2, 4-2 in the championship match.
“I'm just really, really happy… I really don’t know how I won here in Milan," Chung said. “[It was a] really tough match tonight against Rublev. He was better than the last time [we played]. So I was just trying to play my best.”
Fueled by his Milan breakthrough, Chung started 2018 by defeating Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open. But just as he was primed to crack the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings, ankle and foot injuries hampered much of his season. Chung was then sidelined for five months this year with a back injury.
The 23-year-old is finally healthy again, though. He returned to action in August with an ATP Challenger Tour title in Chengdu and came through qualifying to reach the third round of the US Open. If he remains injury-free, expect Chung to quickly climb back up the ATP Rankings next year.
Stefanos Tsitsipas - 2018
Tsitsipas was an alternate at the inaugural event in Milan, but arrived in 2018 as the top seed. He reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final that August in Toronto (l. to Nadal) and became the first Greek to lift an ATP Tour trophy just three weeks before Milan at the Intrum Stockholm Open (d. Gulbis).
Tsitsipas lived up to his billing in Milan by powering through his three round-robin matches in Group A before scoring an epic fifth-set tie-break win in the semi-finals against 2017 runner-up Rublev. Tsitsipas joined Chung as undefeated champions in Milan with a 2-4, 4-1, 4-3(3), 4-3 victory in the final against Aussie Alex de Minaur.
"It feels great. I've been playing some great tennis this week here in Milan," Tsitsipas said. "It's a very special moment. I think I can get some confidence out of it and play better in the future.”
The similarities to Chung didn’t stop in Milan as Tsitsipas also reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final two months later at the Australian Open, which included a fourth-round upset against two-time defending champion Roger Federer. But the Greek carved his own path from there with a banner season that included titles in Marseille (d. Kukushkin) and Estoril (d. Cuevas), in addition to another Masters 1000 final in Madrid (l. to Djokovic).
Last month, Tsitsipas qualified for his maiden appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals. He clinched the milestone moment on the same day he defeated Djokovic in the Shanghai quarter-finals, marking his first win over a current World No. 1.
“It’s great,” said Tsitsipas. "It’s sweet. It's something that I have been trying to get, and it was in my bucket list from the beginning of the year.”
Alex de Minaur - 2018
The Sydney native immediately took to the unique scoring format in Milan, sweeping Group B with a four-set win over Rublev and dropping a combined 11 games in victories over American Taylor Fritz and Italian Liam Caruana. He then showed off his supreme fitness by outlasting Spaniard Jaume Munar in a lengthy five-set semi-final before falling to Tsitsipas in the championship match.
But the hard-working Aussie took plenty of confidence from his runner-up finish. After going 0-2 in finals last year, De Minaur kicked off this season with his maiden ATP Tour title on home soil in Sydney (d. Seppi).
“That’s something that has been tough. I’ve played a lot of finals and they haven’t gone my way,” De Minaur said. “So the amount of relief I got after winning today, I was finally able to just let go. I’m really looking forward to what’s next.”
Two more tour-level crowns in Atlanta (d. Fritz) and Zhuhai (d. Mannarino) accompanied a runner-up finish in Basel (l. to Federer), propelling De Minaur to a current career-high ATP Ranking of No. 18. He returns to Milan this year as the top seed and looks to cap off his banner year with another title.