05:20 PM GMT January 26, 2021
While the 2021 ATP Tour season may still be in its opening stages, many of the top 21-and-under talents already have their sights set on where they want to finish the year. One such player is 20-year-old Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, who is eager to end his 2021 campaign at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
”It would be perfect if I could qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals, but it is far away at the moment,” Machac told ATPTour.com. “I will do my best to qualify there.”
Machac has started the year in promising form. Earlier this month, the Czech qualified for the Australian Open main draw without dropping a set in Doha. Across three matches, Machac lost just 14 games to confirm his spot at the opening major championship of the year for the first time.
“The qualifying was very good. I was playing my best tennis, so I am looking forward to playing good in the main draw,” said Machac. “I will try my best and we will see.”
Born in Beroun, a town less than 20 miles southwest of Prague, Machac reached his first two ATP Challenger Tour finals in Koblenz (d. Van de Zandschulp) and Bratislava (l. to Marterer) last year. However, his most notable performance of 2020 came at Roland Garros.
Following the withdrawal of multiple players due to COVID-19, Machac made his Grand Slam qualifying draw debut and claimed his place in the main draw with three straight-sets wins. In his first tour-level match, the Czech pushed 27th seed Taylor Fritz to five sets in a three-hour, 39-minute battle.
”At Roland Garros, I was really nervous in every match,” said Machac. “I really wanted to go to the main draw at Roland Garros. It was the first time at a Grand Slam, so it was really hard to play every game and every point. It was a really good experience at Roland Garros and it will help me a lot for Australia.”
A maiden Grand Slam match win in Melbourne would give the Czech a boost in his bid to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Machac has watched each of the past three editions of the event, which have featured Top 10 stars Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I was catching the matches [as often] as I could,” said Machac. “It is a really good tournament. I am looking forward to it. It is different to the other events, it is really good and I would like to play the tournament.”
Growing up, Machac idolised both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Unable to pick sides in their matches, he enjoyed watching their battles in the hope of witnessing ‘the perfect match’. Despite his connection to the two most successful players in Grand Slam history, Machac believes his game shows a greater resemblance to the remaining member of the Big 3: Novak Djokovic.
”I don’t play like Federer or Nadal. I think my style is a little bit of Djokovic,” said Machac. “I have a really good backhand, a good forehand and I am serving okay, very good. I play good [on my] return.”
Machac’s sporting inspirations are not limited to the tennis court. The 6’0” right-hander, coached by two-time Roland Garros doubles champion Daniel Vacek, is also inspired by basketball legend Michael Jordan.
Machac, who enjoys playing basketball in his free time at home, gained a greater appreciation for the six-time NBA champion after watching the Netflix documentary ‘The Last Dance’ last year.
”I like him a lot. I like basketball. When I was younger, I didn’t look at basketball as much as now. I watched the Netflix series and after the series, I was the best fan of his,” said Machac. “Before, I really liked him but after the series I was a big fan. I would like to do everything that he did. He is really good. A legend.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Machac has had more time to watch television in recent weeks as he prepares for his Australian Open debut in quarantine. Alongside his hotel training regime, the Koblenz champion has filled his spare hours with gaming and Netflix dramas ‘Lupin’ and ‘You’.
“I wake up a little bit later than usual. I start working for one hour on the bicycle, some exercises, some gym work. After that, I take a shower, have lunch and watch a series or play some games.” said Machac. “I brought a Playstation, so sometimes I spend time on the Playstation. After, I have a little bit of stretching, a second practice and I try volleying against the wall. In the evening, I watch a series and I speak with my girlfriend.”
Machac’s hours spent in front of the television may have distracted him from quarantine life, but they have not affected his focus. The Czech is eager to play with ‘great stability’ throughout 2021 at Challenger level and qualify for as many Grand Slam main draws as he can.
With six straight-sets victories in as many matches, the 20-year-old owns a 100 per cent record in Grand Slam qualifying clashes. If he can maintain that level, he will have a great chance to earn the FedEx ATP Rankings points he will need to secure qualification for Milan.
None of the previous three editions of the Next Gen ATP Finals have featured a Czech player. Machac could be the man to change that statistic in 2021.