ATP Tour: NextGen Finals Selected Fixtures Preview

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Damien Kayat has a look at selected matches from the ATP Tour's NextGen Finals taking place at Fiera Milano in Italy.

Group A

Hubert Hurkacz 33/20 | Francois Tiafoe 9/20
Karen Khachanov’s victory in the Paris Masters Final is concrete validation of celebrating these emerging young stars. Khachanov was involved in last year’s inaugural event and should be a source of massive encouragement to the players this week. Polish player Hubert Hurkacz is teetering on the edge of a major breakthrough after consistently finding success on the Challenger Tour this season. He recently won the Challenger title in Brest to add to the title he won in Poznan. He also lost a semi-final in Shenzhen and a further final in China. Hurkacz is battling to make that tricky conversion from lower grade dominance to full tour competitiveness. Perhaps his best result of the year came with a second round run at the French Open. He disposed of Tennys Sandgren in the process, highlighting his massive potential.

American Francois Tiafoe has enjoyed a breakthrough season where he reached a career-high world ranking of 38 at one point. Tiafoe is a big serving American cut in the mould of Andy Roddick. He has battled consistency this season but still enters this event as one of the favourites. Tiafoe won his first ATP Title this season with the Delray Beach title. During that run he managed to beat the likes of Del Potro and Shapovalov. He also reached the Estoril Final, thus showing some all-court prowess. Tiafoe’s form has certainly deteriorated towards the latter half of the season, with a last 16 run in Canada his best performance post-Wimbledon: he managed a decent enough third round showing at SW19. In Canada- as it was with his last 16 run in Miami- Tiafoe showed the capacity to dispose of real heavyweights. He beat Berdych and Edmund in Miami while accounting for Raonic and Cecchinato in Canada.

Tiafoe won their previous meeting at the Citi Open earlier this season, but that was a very different Francois Tiafoe. The American is a rightful favourite here but has certainly plateaued in recent weeks. Hurkacz comes into this event with terrific Challenger form. Having said all that, I can only see one result here. Tiafoe has regularly jousted with the tennis elite while Hurkacz’s lack of experience against elite competition is palpable. Get on Tiafoe at 9/20.

Group B

Alex de Minaur 1/14 | Liam Caruana 6/1
Alex de Minaur is probably another front runner this week after enjoying his own breakthrough season on tour. He captured his maiden Challenge Tour title this season and reached notable full tour finals. He started the year with a bang by reaching the final in Sydney. He would also reached the final of the Surbiton Trophy before an excellent run in Washington. He lost to defending champion Alex Zverev in that tremendous run to the final in the State’s capital. He has been on the brink of a deep Grand Slam run, losing in the third round of both the US Open and Wimbledon. That heart-breaking five set loss to Cilic at Flushing Meadows tells you all you need to know about this boy’s obvious abilities. He followed that up with a semi-final in Shenzhen, which makes this Aussie one of the sure-fire favourites this week.

Well, these events are really perfectly designed for fairy-tale victories. 20 year-old Italian-American Liam Caruana will likely see qualification as the Italian wildcard as success in itself. He beat top seeded Italian qualifier Brancaccio in dramatic fashion to even make the draw. He is yet to crack the top 300, having toiled fairly despairingly on the Challenger Tour and ITF Tour this season. In fact, he only has one full-tour match to his name. He entered the main draw of the Auckland Open as a lucky loser, losing in quite tight fashion to established pro Steve Johnson.

Clearly De Minaur is the odds on favourite. He has enjoyed an impressive campaign whilst his opponent is really a minnow at this level. However there can only be one option at that price. 6/1 just doesn’t come along too often in a tournament scenario such as this one. There will be many factors that favour the outsider. He will be playing in front of fanatical home support in his first meeting with De Minaur. Furthermore, these post-season events do have a habit of dishing out upsets, perhaps as a result of gruelling seasons taking their toll.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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