Last month, when Sascha Zverev won the Rogers Cup in Montreal, he officially qualified for the Next Gen Finals in Milan. Some commentators laughed at the suggestion that this was celebrated – The Tennis Podcast (a fine weekly show) showed little expectation that the German wonderkid would participate when he has bigger fish to fry at the ATP Tour Finals.
In terms of titles, Zverev is only behind Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer this year and has easily been the third best player in the world. However, his cagey form in the Grand Slams has seen him fail to reach beyond the fourth round stage, including a surprise second round defeat at Flushing Meadows last week.
So if it’s pretty much nailed on that Zverev will reach the ATP Tour Finals, should he take part in Milan?
In short, yes.
Tennis is currently in a strange position on the men’s tour. The in-form players and must-see names have either been in their mid-to-late 30s or early twenties and teens. And while a month or so ago Sascha was taking the Next Gen flag to a different level to his peers, August and September have seen exciting prospects step into the ring and would challenge Zverev for the title should he decide to participate.
Denis Shapovalov has been winning headlines and a mass following on Arthur Ashe at the US Open with masterful performances against Tsonga and Kyle Edmund and Andrey Rublev has dispatched the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin in straight sets to reach his first Quarter Final at a Slam. In fact, Rublev’s run makes him the first Next Gen star to reach this stage – a feat Sascha has failed to achieve.
And the rest of the field are also intriguing and exciting. Karen Khachanov is having a great year, while Borna Coric and Jared Donaldson have put in some terrific performances recently. Playing with the pressure of a favourite tag will probably help Sascha out psychologically when he doest eventually go deeper into Grand Slams, too.
The future of tennis
As well as the strong competition, another reason Zverev should strongly consider competing at the Next Gen finals is because it will test out potential new additions to the game. These radical ideas include:
- 4-game best-of-5 sets;
- no Advantage scoring;
- no lets;
- shorter warm-up;
- 25 second shot clock; and
- public having the freedom to move around during points
These unprecedented rule considerations could revolutionise tennis and Sascha needs to play his part in the decision process. If he doesn’t, he may well regret the opportunity to be part of the next phase of tennis change.
ATP Tour Finals, Next Gen or both?
As a top 10 player, it’s pretty easy to see why he might look past this tournament and focus on bigger and more rewarding ATP Tour Finals. Scheduling has been a clear issue on the ATP Tour this year and the Next Gen Finals are the week after the ATP Worlds, but he should have the energy to participate in both – just as he did in Montreal and Cincinnati.
The competition is there – Zverev lost to Coric at the US Open – and the excitement leading up to the finals will be arguably greater than the actual ATP Tour Finals given the big names that will be missing. And if you take the prize money and ranking points away, is there really that much of a gulf between the two tournaments?
And the biggest questions is – why wouldn’t you want to prove you’re the best of a generation? I’m sure Federer, Nadal and Djokovic would’ve jumped at the opportunity.