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‘If They Can Do It, I Can Do It’: Ballkids Inspired By Next Gen ATP Finals In Jeddah

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.”

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."

A Ballkid At The 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM
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Scouting Report: Fils, Van Assche Lead 21-&-Under Jeddah Field

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.

[SWEEPSTAKES]

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.

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Groups Announced For Next Gen ATP Finals

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).

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Sinner Saves 3 MPs To Beat Djokovic, Keeps Italy Alive In Davis Cup SFs

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 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 keep 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.

A decisive doubles rubber will now determine who meets Australia in Sunday's final.

'It was a roller coaster," Sinner said of his two-hour, 35-minute victory against the World No. 1. "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. Now we have a deciding doubles. We'll have to chat [to decide] who’s going to play. We will give our best shot against them. Let’s see what’s coming."

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Stricker Kicks Off Next Gen ATP Finals Return With Fils Practice

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 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.”

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Physicality Index: Distance, Workload, High Speed & Explosive Power

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.

The Science Behind Workload in Tennis

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.

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De Minaur Takes Australia To Second Straight Davis Cup Final

Alex de Minaur has led Australia into its second consecutive Davis Cup final after dominating the serve of Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori in Malaga Friday.

De Minaur earned 18 break point opportunities during his 6-4, 6-3 win, converting five times and winning 48 per cent of his first-serve return points. He has now won four consecutive singles matches in the Davis Cup Finals.

The World No. 12's victory followed teammate Alexei Popyrin's 7-6(5), 6-2 win over Otto Virtanen. "Probably the biggest win of my career," Popyrin told DavisCup.com. "To win a match that means so much for us is an honour and something that I will never forget."

In Sunday's final Australia will play the winner of Serbia and Italy, a tie that will feature a rematch of the Nitto ATP Finals title match between Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner.

Earlier this week Australia was in a big hole against the Czech Republic after Tomas Machac beat Jordan Thompson 6-4, 7-5 and Jiri Lehecka built a 6-4, 5-3 lead against de Minaur. But from deuce in his 3-5 service game, the 24-year-old won 10 straight points to turn the match on its head. After de Minaur claimed the comeback win, Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell clinched the deciding doubles rubber.

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‘The Most Fun’: Former Finalist Lehecka On His Next Gen ATP Finals Experience

Could next week’s Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM prove a stepping stone to greatness for the eight-strong field in Jeddah?

Jiri Lehecka is in no doubt as to the impact of the 21-and-under event on his professional tennis journey so far. The Czech star, who is currently No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, reached the final at the 2022 edition in Milan. His experience there is one that still shapes him, even one year on.

“I always think about it, because that has still been one of the nicest experiences for me as a player,” the 22-year-old Lehecka told ATPTour.com. “It was just something amazing and I was very happy that it was that kind of tournament where they showed us what it really means to be a top, top tennis player.

“They literally threw us into all the media attention, into the big arena, playing with a new format, trying new rules. It was a great week, I played very good there and I enjoyed it. Of course, it had been a great motivation for me to be in the final eight."

This year, a new group of young ATP Tour stars will vie for glory at a tournament that counts current Top 10 players Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas among its former champions. Arthur Fils, Luca Van Assche, Dominic Stricker, Alex Michelsen, Flavio Cobolli, Hamad Medjedovic, Luca Nardi and Abdullah Shelbayh will each hope that a strong run at the event’s new home in Saudi Arabia can help propel them to even bigger and better things.

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Alcaraz Has All The Right Moves… On The Court & On The Chess Board

Carlos Alcaraz is used to carving up opponents, week-in, week-out, on the tennis courts of the ATP Tour. One of the keys to the Spaniard’s success is his reading of the game, his tactical nous, and his ability to strategically outthink his opponents during rallies.

So how do those skills help the 20-year-old when it comes to chasing victories on a chess board? Alcaraz is a keen chess player, whose grandfather introduced him to the game when he was a young boy. His passion for it has endured until today.

“It helps me be mentally quicker, to observe moves, see the move you want to make, strategy... concentrating all the time,” said Alcaraz in an interview with Marca. “In chess, like in tennis, if you take your eye off the ball for a minute you can lose the match. In that regard, they are pretty similar disciplines. It helps me because you are focused, your mind is working.”

Fans of tennis and chess alike now have the chance to test Alcaraz’s skills with bishop and pawn in hand. The No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and winner of 12 ATP Tour titles, including two Grand Slams, has been introduced as a Chess.com bot that any user can challenge virtually on the platform.

♟️???? https://t.co/1kuObxBjOT

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Physicality Index Explained: Next Gen ATP Finals Presented By NEOM

The ATP and Tennis Data Innovations (TDI) in partnership with Kinexon, will deliver unprecedented insights at the 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. Using state-of-the-art tracking metrics, the insights will assess the physical capacity required to compete at the highest professional level of our sport. The Physicality Index (PI) will allow fans and media to objectively evaluate and quantify the physical outputs of two players competing against each other at the 21-and-under event.

It is important to understand that the Physicality Index (PI) is NOT a direct measurement of the athletes overall tactical performance. It is only reflective of the physical work being produced by each athlete during the match.

At the 2021 Next Gen ATP Finals, Carlos Alcaraz won all five of his matches, spending less than 6.5 hours on court, and only dropping one set in the entire event. From a PI perspective, he worked harder than his opponents in four of the five matches, and his highest match physicality never reached above a 3.4 in the tournament. This did not mean he was not performing at a very high level, but rather indicated that he was able to execute tactically while being very efficient with how much energy he was spending on court.

A similar pattern is visible in the NBA. All-Stars tend to have a lower physicality index ranking because of how efficient they are within different parts of the game. They know when to push and how to save energy while still being on the court, contributing to the overall success of the team.

Tennis champions are some of the most physically fit athletes in the world and are asked to move around the court, executing shots from compromising positions, while staying balanced over multiple hours. The highest levels of tennis set themselves apart from other sports due to the combination of skill and athleticism rarely seen in other sports.

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Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM: Tournament-Record $2 Million Prize Money For 2023 Event

The 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM will award a tournament-record $2 million in prize money at the 21-and-under event, which will be played in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from 28 November-2 December.

If the champion at this year’s tournament lifts the trophy with a perfect record, he will earn $514,000, an increase over the previous record.

Three matches at this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals will be worth more than $100,000. Each semi-final victory will be worth $113,500 and the championship match will yield the winner $153,000. The participation fee for each player at the event is $150,000.

Prize Money 2023

Alternate $15,000
Participation Fee $150,000
Round-robin match win $32,500
Semi-final match win $113,500
Final win $153,000
Undefeated champion $514,000

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Fils, Michelsen Share Historic Practice In Jeddah

Frenchman Arthur Fils and American Alex Michelsen had the honour Friday of opening practice on stadium court at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM, the first ATP-sanctioned event ever held in Saudi Arabia.

Fils and Michelsen are the first two players to arrive for the season-ending 21-and-under event, which will be played at the King Abdullah Sports City from 28 November to 2 December.

"It's the first time we have practicsed together, so it was very nice and the court is very nice," said World No. 36 Fils. "The atmosphere during matches is going to be very good and we're all looking forward to playing the event.

"It's going to be interesting playing with some new rules, like playing to four games."

 

As he prepares for the tournament, Michelsen has spent a very different Thanksgiving holiday than he did 12 months ago.

Arthur Fils practising Friday in Jeddah.
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Sky Secures New Partnerships With ATP, WTA Tours

Sky has agreed new five-year partnerships with both ATP Media, the broadcast arm of the ATP, and WTA Ventures, the commercial arm of the WTA, which will see over 80 tournaments made up of 4000 matches available on Sky Sports, NOW and WOW.

Both Tours will be available for fans year-round with Sky having secured rights exclusively in the U.K. and Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, as well as non-exclusive rights in Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and South Tyrol.

The two Tours will showcase the world's top players such as World No. 1s Iga Swiatek and Novak Djokovic, alongside Rafael Nadal, Aryna Sabalenka, Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev and the returning Naomi Osaka as well as the ‘new era’ of tennis stars including Carlos Alcaraz, Coco Gauff, Jack Draper and Emma Raducanu, competing at all levels including at combined Masters 1000 events taking place in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome, and Cincinnati, and both the Nitto ATP Finals and WTA Finals. From 2024, Sky Sports will create a new home for tennis all year round, delivering the live action from the six continents direct to fans.

Sky Sports coverage will be led by presenter Gigi Salmon, alongside Tim Henman and Laura Robson who will offer their expert analysis and insights across the two Tours, with Jonathan
Overend on the match commentary. The Sky Sports team will also be joined by additional talent and co-commentators at various events across the season.

[SWEEPSTAKES]

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Djokovic Serves Up Serbia's Semi-final Spot

Novak Djokovic has guided Serbia into Saturday's Davis Cup semi-finals in Malaga, where he will face a third showdown with World No. 4 Italian Jannik Sinner in less than two weeks.

World No. 1 Djokovic defeated Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4  in one hour, 41 minutes to give Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead after World No. 55 Miomir Kecmanovic had earlier held his nerve to edge Jack Draper 7-6(2), 7-6(6) in a match in which neither player was able to break serve.

[ATP APP]

Djokovic, who helped Serbia win its first Davis Cup title in 2010, continued the impressive serving he displayed in Turin, dropping just eight points on serve, while hitting 16 forehand winners, double Norrie's tally. A winner of 98 tour-level titles, Djokovic took control of the match with an immediate break of serve in the first game of the second set.

Less than two weeks ago Djokovic lost a third-set tie-break to Sinner in group player in the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, before he avenged that defeat with a commanding 6-3, 6-3 victory in the championship match last Sunday. The 40-time ATP Masters 1000 champion will take a 4-1 lead in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series into the semi-finals.

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Sinner Doubles Up To Lead Italy Into Davis Cup Semi-finals

Jannik Sinner is delighting Italian fans for the second consecutive week after pulling double duty to lead Italy to a comeback victory over The Netherlands in their Davis Cup quarter-final in Malaga, Spain.

Fresh of his run to the title match at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Sinner survived a tight opening set with Tallon Griekspoor before breaking open the match in the second to run out a confident 7-6(3), 6-1 winner to level the tie at 1-1.

He then partnered Lorenzo Sonego to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Griekspoor and Wesley Koolhof to book Italy’s semi-final spot against the winner of Thursday evening’s tie between Serbia, led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and Great Britain.

In his singles win against Griekspoor, Sinner leveraged his dramatically improved serve this year to drop just six points on his delivery, firing nine aces while also cracking 10 forehand winners.

Botic van de Zandschulp had earlier given The Netherlands a 1-0 lead when he saved two match points to defeat Matteo Arnaldi 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(7) in two hours, 52 minutes.

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Tiafoe Hits The Ice With Ovechkin & The NHL's Washington Capitals

Frances Tiafoe is a prominent supporter of the NBA's Washington Wizards, but this week the American paid a visit to another one of his favourite local pro teams. Instead of the basketball hardwood, Tiafoe hit the ice for some hockey with the NHL's Washington Capitals.

"That's way faster than it looks!" a surprised Tiafoe said after attempting to control a pass.

The World No. 16 was more at ease when he mixed in some tennis fun, rallying with Capitals forward Tom Wilson and bombing serves to test the players' reactions. Tiafoe also made time for a photo opportunity with NHL legend Alex Ovechkin in the locker room, and the pair signed a tennis racquet and a hockey stick for one another.

A native of Hyattsville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., Tiafoe has supported the teams in the area since his youth. Speaking in front of the Capitals team, Tiafoe explained that he grew up playing tennis just 20 minutes outside of the city.

Check out the full video above for an inside look at Tiafoe's time with the NHL stars. 

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De Minaur's Comeback Heroics Pave Way To Davis Cup SFs For Australia

Alex de Minaur led a great escape for Australia at the Davis Cup Final 8 on Wednesday to send his country into the semi-finals in Malaga.

The 2022 Davis Cup runners-up were in a big hole against the Czech Republic after Tomas Machac beat Jordan Thompson 6-4, 7-5 and Jiri Lehecka built a 6-4, 5-3 lead against De Minaur. But from deuce in his 3-5 service game, the 24-year-old won 10 straight points to turn the match on its head. 

Showing his famed fighting spirit, De Minaur levelled the tie at 1-1 with a 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 victory, breaking late in the final set before serving out the match to love.

[SWEEPSTAKES]

That set the stage for a decisive doubles rubber that pit Aussies Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell against Czechs Lehecka and Adam Pavlasek. Behind a single break in each set, Ebden/Purcell scored a 6-4, 7-5 win to put Australia through to the semi-finals.

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Holger Rune & Coach Boris Becker Extend Partnership Into 2024

After a successful start to their new player-coach relationship, Holger Rune and Boris Becker will continue working together during the 2024 ATP Tour season.

Rune's team initially confirmed the partnership on 19 October, and the Dane has posted a 6-4 record since then, reaching the Basel semi-finals and the Rolex Paris Masters quarters before narrowly missing out on the Nitto ATP Finals knockout rounds with a 1-2 mark in Turin.

Forza, vamos , allez, kom jetzt ? https://t.co/4MzE001BWt

— Holger Rune (@holgerrune2003) November 19, 2023

Rune reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 4 in August after a strong start to the season but slumped after reaching consecutive major quarter-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Prior to his Basel run in his first tournament after confirming Becker as his coach, Rune had just one win in eight matches.

The Dane pushed Novak Djokovic — who was previously coached by Becker — to three sets in both Paris-Bercy and Turin but was beaten on both occasions by the World No. 1. In his Nitto ATP Finals debut, Rune was one set away from qualifying for the knockout rounds but ultimately fell just short in a three-set loss to home favourite and eventual finalist Jannik Sinner in his final group-stage match.

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Virtanen Stars In Historic Finland Win At Davis Cup Finals

Finland's best-ever Davis Cup run continued on Tuesday at the Final 8 in Malaga, where Otto Virtanen scored wins in singles and doubles to send his country through to the semi-finals at the expense of defending champion Canada.

The 22-year-old Virtanen defeated Canada's Gabriel Diallo 6-4, 7-5 to force a decisive doubles rubber, then teamed with Harri Heliovaara to beat Alexis Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-3 in front of vocal Finnish support in Spain.

[SWEEPSTAKES]

Virtanen's heroics were required after Milos Raonic staked Canada an early advantage with a 6-3, 7-5 victory against Patrick Kaukovalta to open the day's play. The 32-year-old Raonic opened the match with four straight aces and never looked back.

But Virtanen levelled the tie by breaking once in each set against Diallo, and a late break in each set of the doubles match sealed a famous victory for the Finns.

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Shelbayh, Nadal Academy Graduate, Paving Path For Jordanian Tennis

In the early stages of his budding career, Jordan’s Abdullah Shelbayh is already etching his name in history.

The 20-year-old, who is at a career-high No. 187 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, became the first Jordanian to win a main-draw ATP Tour match in April and has since continued his rapid rise. Shelbayh will have another opportunity to perform on a big stage as a wild card at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Shelbayh is doing it all with the pride of Jordan behind him.

“It makes me happy to represent my country and the Arab world,” Shelbayh told ATPTour.com. “There is some pressure but you feel like it’s good pressure to have on your shoulders when you’re representing your country and the region you come from.”

[ATP APP]

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