When the 2020 edition of the Next Generation ATP Finals takes place, Alex De Minaur—a two-time participant of the event—will still just be 21 and eligible for a third appearance.
Odds are fairly high, though, that he won’t be there.
As he is demonstrating this week in Milan, the Australian might be ready to follow in the footsteps of a couple of his peers, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’ve had to bypass the tournament for the next wave of talent because they’re competing in the last event of the year—the ATP Finals—reserved for the game’s top eight players.
De Minaur has swept through his three matches in round-robin play at this year’s tournament for the 21-and-under set. After beating Alejandro Fokina Davidovich and Miomir Kecmanovic in four sets, he was ruthless against Casper Ruud on Thursday, dropping only three games total in the best-of-five encounter, where sets are won by the first to take four games.
It’s the second year in a row that De Minaur won all of his matches in group play. He ended up reaching the finals last year in his debut at the tournament, eventually losing to Tsitsipas in a match that appeared to set both of them up for a strong 2019 campaign.
Having reached his first career singles final in 2018 at home in Sydney, Australia, De Minaur went a step further at the tournament this year, as he topped the veteran Andreas Seppi in the championship match for his first tour triumph. He wasn’t able to readily build upon that over the subsequent months due to a groin injury.
After Wimbledon, the 20-year-old got immediately back to his winning ways by capturing the title in Atlanta, his second of the year, defeating Taylor Fritz in the last match. And though he lost early in his next few tournaments leading up to the US Open, he made a personal Grand Slam breakthrough by reaching the second week of a major for the first time in New York. Then, similar to what happened post-Wimbledon, De Minaur won a title again after a major, this time triumphing in Zhuhai, China, over Adrian Mannarino in the final.
He entered this week’s tournament in Italy in good form, with a 6-2 record over his last two tournaments, which included a run to the final at the Swiss Indoors, the second ATP Tour 500-level championship match of his burgeoning career, having lost in Washington, D.C., last year.
The Australian’s last two losses have come against Roger Federer in Switzerland and Tsitsipas at the Paris Masters. Tsitsipas, whose game is based on dynamic shotmaking—similar to Federer’s—has a 3-0 record against De Minaur, whose own style of play is much more physical: not only is he likely to wear down his opponents with consistency and his own shotmaking prowess, he can track down nearly any ball as he’s widely recognized as being one of the fastest players on the tour.
In many ways, De Minaur’s game mirrors that of his mentor, two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. His level of competitiveness nearly matches his fiery compatriot, too.
2019 has been a season of breakthroughs for the 18th-ranked De Minaur. Finishing with a title this week would be the perfect capper on the year.
If he goes on to build upon his run at the tournament like he did last year, it would be hard to picture him coming back to Milan for a repeat performance.