Next Gen ATP Finals Preview: Could this year's winner make a '20 leap?

Next Gen ATP Finals Preview: Could this year's winner make a '20 leap?

In 2017 and 2018, the winner of the Milan showcase went on to reach the Australian Open semifinals.

The Next Gen ATP Finals is known for its bells and whistles—the shortened scoring format, the headsets, the towel boxes, the electronic line calling, and whatever newfangled experiment the ATP can come up with next. But in its two-year existence, this semi-exhibition in Milan, which is open to players 21-and-younger, has also been something of a bellwether event. In 2017, Hyeon Chung won it, and then went on to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open three months later. In 2018, Stefanos Tsitsipas repeated that pattern. Now, a year later, Tsitsipas is playing with the big boys at the ATP Finals in London.

With Tsitsipas graduating and Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime absent, there are fewer marquee names in the field this year. But there’s at least one (very) young player who is being touted as a future No. 1, and whose success this week would make the home fans happy. Here’s a look ahead.

Group A:

Alex de Minaur (Age: 20; Ranking: 18)

Casper Ruud (Age: 20; Ranking: 63)

Miomir Kecmanovic (Age: 20; Ranking: 55)

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Age: 20; Ranking: 82)

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Of these four 20-year-olds, de Minaur, who has already won three titles, cracked the Top 20, and made the final in Milan last year, is clearly the best-known quantity and the favorite to advance. But Kecmanovic, a Serb with wins over Alexander Zverev and Auger-Aliasssime, seems poised to start making more noise next year. Davidovich Fokina is ranked just 82nd, but this David Nalbandian döppleganger from Spain has a memorable look and a heckuva name.

Semifinalists: De Minaur, Kecmanovic

Group B

Frances Tiafoe (Age: 21; Ranking: 46)

Ugo Humbert (Age: 21: Ranking: 56)

Mikael Ymer (Age: 21; Ranking: 74)

Jannik Sinner (Age: 18; Ranking: 93)

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This is the old-timer’s section of the event, apparently; Tiafoe, Humbert, and Ymer are all 21, and all seem like they should have aged out of this tournament by now. Tiafoe, with a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open under his belt, is the most accomplished of them, but Humbert is a smooth French lefty.

The headliner of Group B, though, is Sinner. He’s just 18, he’s Italian, he beat Tiafoe and Gael Monfils on his way to the semifinals in Antwerp, and he was recently pegged as a future world No. 1 by a former world No. 1, Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Sinner also has the game and hair of a young Andy Murray, and a name that should make headline writers happy for years to come. Is is time to get on the Sinner bandwagon? We’ll know more by the end the week.

Semifinalists: Sinner, Tiafoe

Semifinals: Sinner d. Kecmanovic; De Minaur d. Tiafoe

Final: Sinner d. De Minaur