Tuesday Preview: De Minaur Battles Davidovich Fokina In Milan
Alex de Minaur used his runner-up finish at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals as a springboard to even greater success, clinching three ATP Tour titles and cracking the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings this year. He returns to Milan as the top seed and looks to go one step further at the 21-and-under season finale. He begins his campaign on Tuesday against Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Group A.
The Aussie has proved his mettle indoors by finishing runner-up two weeks ago in Basel (l. to Federer), but he now faces the pressure of being the favourite to take the title. He’ll need to bring his best against Davidovich Fokina, who captured his first two ATP Challenger Tour crowns in the past two months. The crafty Spaniard thrives on a rowdy atmosphere and said that playing in Milan will be the highlight of his year.
“I’m so lucky to be here,” Davidovich Fokina said. “I’m happy to be here, play against the other guys and have some fun.”
Read More: Scouting Report: The Next Gen ATP Finals Field
Fellow Group A competitors, Norwegian Casper Ruud and Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, kick off this year’s event as the opening match at the Allianz Cloud. The two #NextGenATP stars enjoyed success as one of the world’s top junior doubles teams in 2015 and 2016 before turning their attention to the pros.
Kecmanovic won their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head match two months ago in Zhuhai after Ruud was forced to retire after dropping the first set. Although the 21-year-old Ruud has primarily excelled on clay — reaching his first ATP Tour final this April in Houston (l. to Garin) — he believes he’s ready for a big run on a faster surface.
“Most of our matches on Tour are against guys who are much older, so it’s fun to measure our powers against each other,” Ruud said. “Everybody here can beat each other with the [unique] scoring system, so it’s something we should be prepared for. One set can just be a difference of one or two points, so it will be a fun event.”
Read More: Ruud: ‘This Is The Week All Of Us Have Been Waiting For’
Twelve months ago, Jannik Sinner was watching the Next Gen ATP Finals from the stands. This year, he’s playing in them. The 18-year-old Italian will take part in the night session against second-seeded American Frances Tiafoe in Group B action.
Sinner defeated Tiafoe in their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting three weeks ago in Antwerp. The victory was especially poignant because Sinner took in last year’s event in Milan specifically to see “how the players like Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe are playing, especially in the important points”.
The Italian’s rise up the ATP Rankings is the most pronounced of anyone in the draw. He began this season at No. 551, but is now the youngest player inside the Top 100. His breakout year has included a maiden ATP Tour semi-final in Antwerp, first ATP Masters 1000 main draw win in Rome and a pair of ATP Challenger Tour titles.
Read More: Sinner: ‘The Young Generation Is Growing’
Tiafoe started his season on a high by reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open and advancing to the last eight in Miami, but admitted struggling to handle the expectations that came with those results. The 21-year-old has bounced back in recent weeks, recording another quarter-final in Antwerp. He is now embracing the pressure that comes with being one of the rising stars in tennis.
”I think it’s a privilege to have pressure, to be in a unique position,” Tiafoe said. “To play on a big stage with high stakes, you could be in a much worse situation.”
Group B competitors Mikael Ymer of Sweden and Ugo Humbert of France will also square off in the evening session. Both men have excelled indoors in recent weeks, with Humbert advancing to the semi-finals in Antwerp and Ymer scoring back-to-back ATP Challenger Tour crowns in Orleans and Mouilleron le Captif.
ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, 5 NOVEMBER 2019
Stadium Court start 2:00pm
 Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP)
Casper Ruud (NOR) vs Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB)
Ugo Humbert (FRA) vs Mikael Ymer (SWE)
 Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs Jannik Sinner (ITA)