12:35 AM GMT November 11, 2017
From innovations to the #NextGenATP stars putting on a show all week in Milan, the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals has been a resounding success. But the tournament is not over quite yet, and a lot is at stake on Saturday.
Only one man can walk away with the ATP World Tour title — for Hyeon Chung, it would be his first, and Andrey Rublev, his second (Umag).
It will be the second time the pair meets this week alone. On Wednesday, Chung won 4-0, 4-1, 4-3(1) in the second match in Group A play. The 21-year-old South Korean comes into the final with a 4-0 record in the event after beating Daniil Medvedev in a five-set classic in the semi-finals, while the 20-year-old Russian is 3-1, suffering his only loss against Chung.
Overall this is their third FedEx ATP Head2Head battle. Chung won 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in the second round of the Winston-Salem Open in August prior to the US Open, where Rublev reached the quarter-finals.
Chung is appearing in his first ATP World Tour final and is trying to become the first player from South Korea to win a tour-level singles title since Hyung-Taik Lee captured the 2003 Sydney title (d. Ferrero). He has won his last two matches in five sets (d. Quinzi, Medvedev) after dropping only one set in his first two Group A matches. Chung has a 28-18 match record on the season and his 28 wins is the most in the field.
The right-hander has dominated on return of serve this week, breaking opponents a tournament-high 16 times (16 of 45 games). He also leads in break points saved (77%, 27 of 35). If Chung wins, he will take home $390,000 as an undefeated champion.
"I have to focus on the match," Chung said. "After winning the match I can think about prize money and [the] trophy, [if] I get my first trophy in the ATP. So I have to finish the match first and nothing else."
Rublev, who is the top seed in the tournament, needed only 62 minutes to beat Borna Coric in the semi-finals. Rublev has been broken 11 times in 42 service games this week (26%), but he saved the only break point faced on Friday. The Russian lifted his first ATP World Tour trophy in Umag in July (d. Lorenzi) as a lucky loser.
He beat third-seeded Denis Shapovalov 4-1, 3-4(8), 4-3(2), 0-4, 4-3(3) on Thursday in his final Group A match to earn a spot in the semi-finals. Rublev has a 21-17 match record on the season and he reached a career-high No. 35 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 9 October. He is No. 37 this week, and can claim $335,000 if he earns the trophy.
"This was my best tennis in the whole week. I'm really happy, and I hope tomorrow I can show even better game," Rublev said after beating Coric. "I'll try, like always I will try to play my game to try to dictate, because the first match here, I wasn't playing that aggressive. I didn't play that good. I was missing a lot. So I hope tomorrow I can show a better game."
In the third-place match, Medvedev and Coric square off for the second time this week. On Wednesday, Coric won 4-3(5), 2-4, 4-1, 4-2 in their second Group B match. Medvedev was a finalist in Chennai (l. to Bautista Agut) in the opening week of the year, while Coric won his first ATP World Tour title in Marrakech in April.