Who are the Next Gen Stars?

Posted on November 06 2018

The ATP Next Gen Finals kicks off today in Milan, but who are the young pretenders taking part this year? There are a couple of players lining up who are fairly well known by now, but there are still a few names that many people won’t have heard of.

The eight qualifiers have been split into two groups, with two qualifiers from each group going on to the semi-finals, so there’s plenty of tennis to look out for.

These may not be the household names that we have to look forward to next week at the ATP Tour Finals in London, but it is an excellent opportunity to see the future stars of tennis battling it out to be crowned the Next Gen champion.

We’ve run the rule over these eight youngsters so you can sit back and watch with a firm understanding of who’s who!

Group A

Stefanos Tsitsipas - Greece

ATP Ranking - 15

Age - 20

The 20-year-old from Greece has had a breakout season in 2018 and finds himself at acareer-highh ranking of 15. Tsitsiaps picked up his first ATP Tour title in Stockholm last month, and has had impressive runs to the final in Toronto and Barcelona.

Though he is yet to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal, Tsitsipas has proven he has what it takes to beat top 10 players back-to-back, putting in an incredible run in Toronto to beat Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson before losing to Nadal in the final.

The young Greek is somewhat of a commentators darling, with his aggressive baseline game, and classic stroke play earning him many plaudits.

2019 will be the real test of Tsitsipas’ development, but he will be desparate to finish the year as the Next Gen champion.

Predicition: Winner - This seems like an obvious one, but it’s hard to look past Tsitsipas in this field.

Frances Tiafoe - USA

ATP Ranking - 40

Age - 20

The American has been steadily rising up the rankings, having started the year ranked 79 in the world he now finds himself at number 40, and is poised to push on in 2019. Tiafoe turned pro in 2015, but has not particularly caught the eye until this year when he clinched his first title in Delray Beach, and became the youngest American to reach a tour final on European clay in Estoril.

The young American has peculiar technique on his forehand, but he uses it to good effect, as he really hugs the baseline and looks to step in and boss the point off that side, taking time away from his opponent.

Tiafoe is a great watch, as he will go toe-to-toe with anyone at the baseline, and never seems to take a backwards step

Prediction: Semi-finalist - If Tiafoe put his best tennis together throughout the week there’s no reason he couldn’t win this tournament. He’s just not shown that kind of consistency yet though.

Jaume Munar - Spain

Ranking - 76

Age - 21

There won’t be anyone representing Mallorca at the Tour Finals in London after Nadal’s withdrawal, but the island does have a representative at the Next Gen tournament in Jaume Munar.

The Spaniard started the year ranked 184 in the world and has worked his way well into the top 100 at number 76. Munar’s rise in the rankings came in large part because of some good performances on the Challenger Tour, but he is yet to really impose himself at the top level events. 

Munar reminds us of David Ferrer a bit, with a similar kind of stature and he does love running balls down from the back. If Munar wants to continue his rise up the ranking he has a lot of work to do though, his game is not huge, and he needs to find some weapons to hurt the top players.

Prediction: Out in the group stages. We just can’t see Munar picking up enough wins to get out of this group.

Hubert Hurkacz - Poland

Ranking - 85

Age - 21

Another name that will be new to many, Hurkacz has had an even bigger move up the rankings than Munar this year, having started out at number 231 in the world, he now finds himself at number 85.

Like Munar, most of Hurkacz’s success has come on the Challenger Tour, where he picked up a title in his home country event.

At 6ft 5inches tall, Hurkacz’s has a big weapon in a canon of a serve, and has some very tidy attacking groundstrokes that make him an excellent watch. His opponents will be looking to get him moving around the court though, and trying to negate those big swinging groundstrokes.

Prediction: Won’t get out of the group stages. Hurkacz is our third favourite to make it through this group, but he has a decent chance. Tiafoe and Tsitsipas might be just too strong for him though.

Group B

Alex de Minaur - Australia

Ranking - 31

Age - 19

For a 19-year-old that’s ranked 31 in the world, Alex de Minaur has done a pretty good job of flying under the radar. The Aussie started out the year ranked number 208 in the world, and has risen up the rankings off the back of some impressive performances.

De Minaur made two tour level finals this year in Washington and Sydney, picking up some solid wins against Hyeon Chung, Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev and Fernando Verdasco along the way.

De Minaur is another agressive baseliner who loves to step in and control the point, he’s got bags of speed and great touch that makes him great for the highlight reels.

He’s the second highest ranked player in the tournament so he will be confident he can go all the way and claim the Next Gen title.

Prediction: Semi-finals. We would be surprised if he didn’t make it out of the group stage.

Taylor Fritz - USA

Ranking - 47

Age - 21

The second American in the draw, Taylor Fritz has had a good end to the year which has seen him establish himself on the main ATP Tour. A semi-final appearance in Chengdu was followed up by making the quarterfinals in Basel, signs that Fritz has the potential to continue his move up the rankings next year.

Frtiz has a solid serve that he places nicely, and really attacks off his forehand wing. He’s a solid allround player, but still has plenty of room to improve. He will be buoyed by his continued improvement over 2018, and will now be eager to break into the top 20 in 2019.

This should be a very competitive group, and it will be interesting to see how Fritz does. He has had some good results of late, and so will be confident that he can win any of his matchups.

Prediction: This was a close one, but we’ve got him just going out at the group stages. We could definitely be wrong on this one.

Andrey Rublev: Russia

Ranking: 68

Age: 21

When Rublev broke onto the scene, we thought he had a great game to move up the rankings quickly, and be fighting for a spot in the top 20. That has failed to materialise over the past year as he has struggled for consistency and dropped from number 39 at the start of the year to number 68 currently.

It has been a disappointing year for the Russian with many first round defeats and an overall win loss record of 17 and 21. It just goes to show how difficult it is for young tennis players to break through in today’s game, but despite his poor year, Rublev deserves his spot at the Next Gen tournament.

He managed to put a few wins together recently in Vienna, and we’re hoping he can use some of that momentum to do well this week in Milan.

Prediction: We’ve gone out on a limb here and are going to say he will make the final. He has the talent, does he have the mentality?

Liam Caruana - Italy

Ranking - 622

Age - 20

Caruana came through the Italian u21 qualifying tournament to take the last spot in the Next Gen finals. His ranking and form this year would suggest he has no chance of making it through this group, but with a home crowd behind him, you never know.

Having played the qualifying tournament he is used to the first to 4 sets by now, and this might prove to be an advantage. However, if you’re one of those guys who loves to back the underdog, don’t get too excited.

Caruana has never beaten a top 100 player, so things are going to have to change drastically if he is to progress in this tournament.

Prediction: Out in group stages.

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