07:14 PM GMT August 27, 2017
The Emirates ATP Race To Milan is heating up this week in New York as the season's final Grand Slam, the US Open, begins on Monday.
Race leader Alexander Zverev of Germany has already qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 7-11 November in Milan. But six more automatic-entry spots remain in the Race, which will determine seven of the eight players who compete at the 21-and-under event. The eighth player will be chosen by wild card.
#NextGenATP Karen Khachanov is currently in second place in the Race. Khachanov, who reached the semi-finals in Halle before falling to eventual champion Roger Federer, is the 25th seed at the US Open and faces Chinese Taipei veteran Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round. The 21 year old will try improve upon his second-round showing last year.
“I think it's great for tennis when Next Gen guys have successful tournaments, and we look to each other and I think we motivate each other and encourage each other,” Khachanov said.
About a dozen #NextGenATP players, including Khachanov, took part in an ATP World Tour photo and video shoot in Manhattan on Friday evening at the InterContinental New York Barclay.
The players talked about what qualifying for the invite-only event would mean to them and what they think of the new rules that will be trialled in Milan, including a shot clock in between points and a shorter format of play – first to four game sets (tie-break at 3-all) and best-of-five sets, with no-ad scoring.
“I think it's going to be quite exciting and interesting. But on the other side it's something unusual. You have to try to adapt and just enjoy. I think it's going to be a nice and fun event,” Khachanov said.
They also had some fun, playing with their favourite emoji and checking out the Penthouse suite view.
#NextGenATP American Jared Donaldson also attended the shoot. The 20 year old climbed to third in the Race last week, jumping five spots after his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final run at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (l. to Isner).
Donaldson had his best Grand Slam run a year ago in New York, upsetting World No. 14 David Goffin in the first round before falling to Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the third round. Donaldson will open against Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
“Every player wants to make it. It's a really tough battle here down the stretch. There are honestly 15-20 players who are worthwhile and deserving of making it,” Donaldson said of the Next Gen ATP Finals. “It's going to be a tough. I just have to make sure that I go in and play well week after week and keep focusing on improving my game and I feel if I do that I have a good chance of making it.”
Other notable #NextGenATP first-round match-ups at the US Open (#NextGenATP player is listed first):
- Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. vs. third seed Roger Federer;
- American Tommy Paul vs. Japan's Taro Daniel;
- Russian Andrey Rublev vs. Brit Aljaz Bedene;
- Home favourite Taylor Fritz vs. Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis;
- Aussie wild card Alex de Minaur vs. sixth seed Dominic Thiem;
- Wild card Christopher Eubanks of the U.S. vs. Israel's Dudi Sela;
- American Ernesto Escobedo vs. Moldova's Radu Albot;
- Korean Hyeon Chung vs. Argentine Horacio Zeballos;
- Croatian Borna Coric vs. Czech Jiri Vesely;
- Alexander Zverev vs. Darian King of Barbados;
- two #NextGenATP players will face off when Canadian qualifier Denis Shapovalov meets Russian Daniil Medvedev;
- and Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis vs. Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic.