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PREVIEW: Next Gen ATP Finals – selected group matches – 8 November 2022

Brendon Nakashima faces Matteo Arnaldi and Jack Draper squares off against Dominic Stricker in the Next Gen ATP Finals on 8 November 2022. Damien Kayat previews.

Jack Draper
EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Brendon Nakashima faces Matteo Arnaldi and Jack Draper squares off against Dominic Stricker in the Next Gen ATP Finals on 8 November 2022. Damien Kayat previews.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022 ATP Tour
Intesa Sanpaolo NextGen ATP Finals
Allianz Clud Stadium, Milan, Italy (Indoor Hardcourt)
Selected Group Matches- 8 November

Green Group

Brendon Nakashima 2/11 | Matteo Arnaldi 38/10 

21-year-old American Brendon Nakashima is amongst the favourites to win the title this year (especially following the late withdrawal of Paris Masters champ Holger Rune).

He is one of only two players participating this week with an ATP title to his name (Lorenzo Musetti being the other). He won his maiden title earlier this year, showcasing his penchant for harder surfaces at the San Diego Open.

He also reached ATP finals in Los Cabos and Atlanta last season. He was unfortunate that Wimbledon decided not to award ranking points this year (he enjoyed a career-best Grand Slam finish with a fourth round appearance).

Still, he has broken into the top 50 in the world and he will take some beating this week. Just look at his last three defeats. He lost to Evans and Wawrinka in three-set matches. And he also lost to Felix Auger Aliassime in a tight straight-sets defeat. 

They say that one person’s misfortune can be another’s fortune. This is actually a case where someone’s good fortune has engendered more good fortune. Let me explain.

After his heroic victory in last week’s Paris Masters, Holger Rune has opted to withdraw from this week’s NextGen Finals. This has afforded Matteo Arnaldi the chance to backdoor his way into this year’s tournament.

He actually reached a career-high of 134th in the world rankings this week (courtesy of some recent success on the Challenger Tour). But he is yet to win a tour-level match in his career.

So, this will be a massive challenge for the hometown Arnaldi. Having said that, this is exactly the sort of tournament that encourages breakout performances (it is a celebration of breakout performances, after all).

Sebastian Baez surprised everyone last year by reaching the semi-finals. He used it as a springboard for further success this year, reaching three finals, winning his maiden title in Estoril.

Verdict: Nakashima to win in four

This will be the first career meeting between these two. Nakashima is the obvious favourite here. He has hardcourt pedigree and most of Arnaldi’s success has come on clay.

Having said that, Arnaldi’s last Challenger final came on hardcourts in Saint-Tropez. So, perhaps he has a chance of putting up a bit of a fight here.

The shorter frames should theoretically give the lesser players a better chance to nip a set. Also, Arnaldi will enjoy some fanatical home support. Perhaps Nakashima to win in four will be the wisest option.

Red Group

Jack Draper 32/100 | Dominic Stricker 47/20

NextGen Brit Jack Draper entered this season ranked 265 in the world rankings. He also had just two tour-level victories to his name. Now he is ranked 41 in the world and is possibly the favourite to win this week’s title.

He actually boasts an impressive 17-12 tour-level record for the year. He narrowly missed out on reaching his maiden ATP final after a semi-final run in Eastbourne.

But it was during the North American hardcourt swing that he would leave his biggest impression. He reached his maiden Masters 1000 quarterfinal at the Canadian Masters.

This included a tentpole win against Stefanos Tsitsipas. He then reached the third round of the US Open (accounting for Felix Auger Aliassime along the way).

He has claimed some big scalps and, it’s easy to see why. The lefty has a big serve and an absolutely monstrous forehand. He also moves surprisingly well for someone his size. His game is virtually made for these slick, indoor conditions. 

Dominic Stricker will prove an interesting challenge for Draper. He is also a lefty who looks to dominate on serve. He just lacks the firepower that Draper has in all departments.

But he has made some steady progress this year, bursting into the top 125 of the world rankings. He has performed steadily on the Challenger Tour (winning two titles in three final appearances).

But I think his recent performances in tour-level indoor-hardcourt events are the most compelling evidence of his potential. He beat Botic van de Zandschulp at the European Open before downing Maxime Cressey at the Swiss Indoors. He clearly has the capacity to operate on these surfaces.

Verdict: Draper to win in four at 5/2

This will be the first career meeting between Draper and Stricker. As I noted earlier, the shorter frames do give the lesser players a slightly better chance of stealing the odd set.

And I think Stricker’s recent indoor-hardcourt form has been encouraging enough to suggest he could pick up one set. But Draper is going nowhere but up and I think his power will ultimately prove decisive.

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