Jannik Sinner beats Novak Djokovic to help Italy overcome Serbia to join Australia in the Davis Cup final.
Jannik Sinner beats Novak Djokovic to help Italy overcome Serbia to join Australia in the Davis Cup final.
The Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM’s arrival in Jeddah is set to inspire a generation of young Saudi tennis enthusiasts — and not least those who will be just metres from the action next week at King Abdullah Sports City.
The first ATP-sanctioned event ever to be held in Saudi Arabia will take place from 28 November-2 December. It will be a historic moment for tennis in the Gulf nation and promises to be a particularly memorable one for the 19-strong team of ballkids, aged between 10 and 15, who will be on hand to help ensure the event runs smoothly.
“I’m really excited. I play tennis five or six times a week, so I had ballboy training a couple of times a week too,” ballboy Sulaiman Ashoor told ATPTour.com on Saturday in Jeddah. “I have seen live tennis before at a tournament in Riyadh. I saw Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem. It was really fun. I like seeing the players up close because if they can do it, it means I can do it.”
Shelbayh, Nadal Academy Graduate, Paving Path For Jordanian Tennis
Sulaiman’s sister Tala Ashoor is one of six ballgirls on the team. A keen tennis fan and player like her brother, Tala is ready to relish the experience of being on court with some of the world’s best young professional players.
“I’m really excited, it’s my first time being a ballkid, but I’m also nervous,” said Tala, who was asked to take part in training for the event via her tennis coach. “The training was a lot, but it’s fun. My friends and family will come to watch when I am on court.”
Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.” />
Tala Ashoor is one of the ballkids in Jeddah. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Like her brother Sulaiman, Tala enjoys playing tennis and other sports in her spare time and particularly looks up to a trailblazer of the Arab sporting world.
“I play tennis six times a week and my favourite player is (Tunisian WTA star) Ons Jabeur,” said Tala. “I play tennis mainly, but I also like ping-pong.”
Ten-year-old Abdulaziz Aloqibi is hoping that spending time under the lights on the indoor hard court in King Abdullah Sports City will be a small stepping stone on his own path to a future in professional tennis.
“I’m excited because my dream is to become a tennis player and I really want to meet tennis players,” said Abdulaziz. “When I grow up, I want to know what it’s like to be on the court and how it feels to be in front of thousands.
“I play tennis six days a week, for two hours. My favourite player here is definitely Dominic Stricker, I really like him. On the ATP Tour I also like Novak Djokovic.”
Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM” />
A ballkid at the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Regardless of what their future holds, the ballkids standing on court this week will have a unique opportunity to witness top-level pros competing against each other at close distance.
“I’m really excited about this because it is a first-time experience,” said Fares Ayman. “To be on a court where players are playing. I’m really excited but it’s making me nervous at the same time. I only saw tennis on TV before, so that’s making me more nervous.
“I play maybe six days a week and have done for the past two years. I like Rafael Nadal because he’s left-handed like me, and a fighter. He doesn’t leave any ball.”
Less than a week after their meeting in the Nitto ATP Finals title match, Jannik Sinner scored swift revenge against Novak Djokovic on Saturday in the Davis Cup semi-finals.
In a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 singles victory, the Italian saved three match points by escaping 0/40 at 4-5 in the final set and broke immediately after to seize control of the match in Malaga. Sinner’s heroics kept Italy alive in the semi-final tie after Miomir Kecmanovic opened the day’s play with a 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-1 victory against Lorenzo Musetti.
Sinner then teamed with Lorenzo Sonego to defeat Djokovic and Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4 in a decisive doubles match, sending Italy into its first Davis Cup final since 1998. Returning finalists Australia will provide the opposition in Sunday’s title tilt.
‘It was a roller coaster,” Sinner said of his two-hour, 35-minute singles victory against the World No. 1 — a description that also applies to the tie as a whole. “I was starting off really well. Second set he played much better than me. Third set I tried to serve really well, and also on match points down I served well.
“Happy to still be in the competition. We were one point away from being out.”
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) November 25, 2023
In the singles showdown, Sinner saved seven of nine break points, including five in the final set, to keep Italy’s Davis Cup dream alive. Djokovic faced just one break point across the final two sets, but Sinner claimed it in style with a forehand passing shot before confidently serving out the match.
While Djokovic found success with aggressive play in the second and third sets, he was unable to drag Sinner into a rally on his three match points. The Italian then capitalised on a brief dip from his opponent to bring up his first break point since the opening set, and he whipped a forehand down the line past a stranded Djokovic to move decisively ahead.
From 4-5, 0/40, Sinner won 13 of the match’s final 16 points.
The result improved Sinner to 2-4 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head with Djokovic overall and 2-2 this season, with his previous win coming last week in the Nitto ATP Finals group stage. Their Malaga meeting was their second match this season to require a decisive set, with Sinner previously winning a third-set tie-break in Turin.
The drama of the pivotal doubles match belied the straightforward scoreline. After Sinner and Sonego won the opening set by claiming its lone break point, there were a combined 10 break chances in a thrilling second set. Following an early trade of breaks, the Italians fought out of a 0/40 hole at 2-3, saving four break points in a marathon game before breaking to lead 4-3.
They erased another break point as they served out the match to clinch a 2-1 victory in the semi-final tie and send Italy into its eighth Davis Cup final. The country is seeking its second title after first lifting the Davis Cup trophy 1976.
An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week
The Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM are set to debut in Jeddah this coming week, with eight of the game’s brightest young stars in the field.
Frenchmen Arthur Fils and Luca Van Assche, both 19, lead their respective round-robin groups, while Switzerland’s Dominic Stricker returns to the innovative year-end event for the second straight year.
ATPTour.com breaks down five of the biggest storylines in Jeddah.
1) Frenchmen In Front: The top-seeded Fils and second-seeded Van Assche will hope to live up to their billing in the Green Group and Red Group, respectively. Fils enters Jeddah at a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of World No. 36, having followed a home-nation title in Lyon in May with a run to the Antwerp final last month. Van Assche won two ATP Challenger Tour singles title this season and travelled to Jeddah after two tournaments on home soil in Paris-Bercy and Metz.
2) Stricker Returns: The 21-year-old, seeded seventh last year at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, arrives in Jeddah as the third seed this year. The Swiss completed a perfect 3-0 group campaign in Milan but was beaten by Jiri Lehecka in the semi-finals. In addition to winning two ATP Challenger Tour titles this season, Stricker made his first Grand Slam appearances in 2023; he qualified at the last three majors of this season, advancing to the fourth round in his US Open debut.
3) Italians Cobolli, Nardi In Same Group: Flavio Cobolli and Luca Nardi join Fils and Stricker in the Green Group, after three Italians — Lorenzo Musetti, Francesco Passaro and Matteo Arnaldi — represented Italy at the 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. Cobolli made his Top 100 debut in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings this season behind a strong campaign on the ATP Challenger Tour, while Nardi enters Jeddah two places off his career-high ranking at World No. 118.
4) Michelsen, Medjedovic, Shelbayh Round Out Red Group: American Alex Michelsen made a splash by reaching the Newport final in his second tour-level event and now hopes to raise his profile on the other side of the globe. Serbia’s Hamad Medjedovic, coached by Viktor Troicki, seeks to follow his countryman Novak Djokovic’s example for success on the big stages, while Abdullah Shelbayh — from the neighbouring nation of Jordan — bids to build on a last-16 run in Metz as a qualifier.
5) Record Prize Money: The eight men in Jeddah will be competing for their share of a record $2 million in prize money. An undefeated champion would earn $514,000. A semi-final victory will be worth $113,500 and the championship match will yield the winner $153,000.
📧 For all the official news and exclusive interviews, sign up to our newsletters
The world’s leading 21-and-under players Saturday night learned their group fate for the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM when the official draw was conducted in Jeddah.
Joining French top seed Arthur Fils, 19, in Green Group will be Dominic Stricker, Flavio Cobolli and Luca Nardi.
Fellow Frenchman Luca Van Assche, 19, heads Red Group, which will also feature Alex Michelsen, Hamad Medjedovic and Abdullah Shelbayh.
The Next Gen ATP Finals, the first ATP-sanctioned event ever to be held in Saudi Arabia, will be held 28 November-2 December at King Abdullah Sports City.
Green Group: Arthur Fils (1), Dominic Stricker (3), Flavio Cobolli (5), Luca Nardi (7).
Red Group: Luca Van Assche (2), Alex Michelsen (4), Hamad Medjedovic (6), Abdullah Shelbayh (8).
Dominic Stricker may have prior experience both of visiting Saudi Arabia and competing at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM, but the Swiss star was still impressed by his first visit to the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
Stricker stepped on court for his first practice session Saturday lunchtime in the Saudi coastal city, where the lefty hit with one of his fellow competitors at the 21-and-under event, Arthur Fils. The 21-year-old reached the semi-finals on his Next Gen ATP Finals debut in Milan in 2022 and is delighted to be back for a second campaign.
“It’s a great arena. It felt really good from the beginning onwards,” said Stricker after his practice. “I was at this event last year, so it’s great to come back. It’s a super event, everything is organised well. I arrived pretty late yesterday but had a great practice with Arthur.”
‘The Most Fun’: Former Finalist Lehecka On His Next Gen ATP Finals Experience
The lefty World No. 92 said he had settled quickly in Jeddah, where he will hope to cap a strong year during which he made his maiden fourth-round appearance at a major at the US Open and lifted two ATP Challenger Tour trophies.
“I’ve been here once before,” said Stricker of Saudi Arabia. “I was excited to come here again. I really liked it the time I was here before, so I hope I can enjoy my stay here. It’s my first time in this stadium, but it looks great and feels great. The court feels good, everything looks really good so far.”
Earlier on Saturday, Flavio Cobolli also made his bow on Jeddah’s stadium court in a practice with his fellow event debutant Alex Michelsen. The World No. 95 Cobolli won a Challenger title in Lisbon in August, made two other finals at that level, and also reached his first ATP Tour quarter-final in Munich in April.
Flavio Cobolli” />
Flavio Cobolli during practice on Saturday at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Total distance is the foundational tracking metric for athletic performance defined by the overall quantity of work an athlete must undertake in order to excel at the highest levels of their sport.
Accumulating distance over the course of a match drains a competitor’s overall level of energy by fatiguing muscles and stressing the cardiovascular system. Within a tournament, total distance covered becomes most significant not on one specific day, but as a cumulative measure. For world-class athletes, handling high-distance loads in one match is not the primary challenge; rather, it’s the ability to sustain repeated exposure to high-distance matches in a condensed, one-week span and still produce peak performance.
Cumulative distance covered leading into semi-finals can be vastly different for two opponents. A disparity in the amount of distance covered in the previous rounds could result in an advantage for the fresher player. In 2021, Carlos Alcaraz came into the final having run close to 18 per cent less distance than Sebastian Korda. The following year the tables were turned for Brandon Nakashima. Nakashima came into the finals having run 19 per cent more distance in his first four matches than his opponent Jiri Lehecka.
In 2021, Lorenzo Musetti covered a distance of 2.48 km against Hugo Gaston, the most distance of any player in any match during the 21-and-under event in 2021. Gaston ran 2.28 km in the same match, the second-most distance of any match that year.
Physicality Index Explained: Next Gen ATP Finals Presented By NEOM
Total distance is the primary metric that measures the overall volume of work by aggregating how much ground an athlete has covered. Mechanical workload is the secondary volume metric that aggregates the total amount of weighted accelerations and decelerations the athlete has performed. Using optical tracking systems, every instant of acceleration and deceleration performed by a player is categorised into one of three zones: low, medium or high.
Accel/Decel Low: Gradual speed change that does not have an acute demand on the legs but can result in accumulated fatigue over time.
Accel/Decel Medium: Moderate speed change that requires effort and has an immediate impact on the legs.
Accel/Decel High: Demanding speed change that requires elite movement capabilities and must be trained for.
Distance reflects your level of speed; workload reflects the levels at which you change speed.
Distance to Workload Ratio in professional sports
· Women’s Tennis: 2.12 meters for 1 unit of workload
· Men’s Tennis: 2.33 meters for 1 unit of workload
· NBA: 3.15 meters for 1 unit of workload
· NFL Running Back: 3.51 meters for 1 unit of workload
· Professional Soccer: 4.40 meters for 1 unit of workload
· NHL: 6.01 meters for 1 unit of workload
One essential measure of the intensity of an athletic performance is the amount of distance covered at high sustained speeds. High-speed distance is recorded when players reach the top 3 per cent of speeds observed in professional tennis. Repeated instances of these movements will lead to elevated heart rates, challenging an athlete to execute under strenuous conditions and recover quickly to play the next point.
Throughout a match, players must battle the cumulative effect of continually pushing towards their highest speeds.
Maximum Speeds in Professional Sports
· Men’s Tennis: 23.58 km/h
· NBA: 23.83 km/h
· Running Back in the NFL: 29.66 km/h
· Professional Soccer: 30.16 km/h
· Usain Bolt in the 100m sprint: 43.98 km/h
Because tennis is played in a confined space, athletes in court-based sports such as tennis and basketball do not have the space to reach the maximum speeds that athletes in field-based sports, such as football and soccer, can achieve. As a result, tennis players are not typically required to hit the maximum speeds that they are physically capable of.
To be equipped to handle these repeated high speeds, athletes must be intentional about how they train for these events. They can start by performing a series of linear sprints at the top end of their speed threshold with limited recovery to overload the anaerobic system.
The most iconic sequence in tennis is a player stopping on a dime and changing direction to execute a winning shot while running at top speed. An explosive movement is recorded every time an athlete performs a highly-demanding acceleration or deceleration. While tennis players rarely reach their maximum capacity for speed due to confined court space, the instantaneous reactions and changes of direction that play such a to tennis requires them to accelerate and decelerate at full force, pushing the boundaries of their physical capabilities. As a result, if not adequately prepared for, these efforts of elite athleticism could result in a high risk of injury.
Explosive movement requires substantial strength and power from the lower body and core. These functionalities are built up in training through the application of dynamic movements such as plyometrics and on-court change-of-direction drills. Being mindful of implementing high-intensity movements into your weekly training programs to replicate the specific demands of an athlete’s sport is essential to their long-term health and well-being.
While training for the correct number of explosive movements is important, it’s also crucial to prepare for the different styles of acceleration and deceleration that an athlete’s sport might require. In tennis, players produce explosive movements when decelerating laterally, diagonally, or forward when defending or counter-attacking off the ground.
Lorenzo Musetti made a 2021 tournament-record 694 explosive movements against Hugo Gaston. The Frenchman made 532 explosive movements in the same match, the second highest at the 2021 event.