04:44 PM GMT January 22, 2019
Stefanos Tsitsipas accomplished plenty of personal history on Tuesday when he became the first Greek man to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open. It’s a tremendous result for the 20-year-old, who had never previously advanced past the fourth round of a major.
But Tsitsipas’ effort is also a sign of an interesting pattern that has formed. Last year, he won the Next Gen ATP Finals, and two months later he is into the last four of the Australian Open. In 2017, Hyeon Chung claimed the inaugural title at the prestigious 21-and-under event in Milan. And in 2018, the South Korean reached the semi-finals in Melbourne.
So has the Next Gen ATP Finals served as a springboard heading into the new season? It certainly seems that way. And while Tsitsipas and Chung have stood out, they haven’t been the only ones to enjoy immediate success. At this year’s Australian Open, eight of the 14 automatic qualifiers from the first two editions of the Next Gen ATP Finals advanced to the third round or better at Melbourne Park.
#NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe, who turned 21 on Sunday, when he defeated 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, advanced to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time. He had only made the third round of a major once before.
“Rafa and these cats ain't getting any younger, you know what I'm saying?” Tiafoe said. “We're playing good, playing good. Put us in the right situation at the right time, we'll take it. Granted, I didn't tonight, but it's coming.”
When the new ATP Rankings are released on 28 January, seven players in the Top 30 will have competed in the Next Gen ATP Finals. Tsitsipas, who can crack the Top 10 for the first time by advancing to the championship match, played Tuesday’s first quarter-final, so he did not yet know if he would face 2009 champion Rafael Nadal or Tiafoe in the last four. While Nadal advanced, Tsitsipas was excited at the prospects of an all-#NextGenATP semi-final.
“[He’s a] good Next Gen player. Funny guy, as well. Nice to have guys like him on the Tour, entertaining, just a different personality. I do respect Tiafoe as well. We played a good match in Milan a few months ago at the Next Gen ATP Finals. It was a good show,” Tsitsipas said. “If Tiafoe wins, I think it will be nice also for the NextGen campaign to have a semi-final of two Next Gen players face one another in such an important tournament.”
Not only that, but the #NextGenATP has earned plenty of respect from the very best players in the sport. Nadal may have beaten Tsitsipas in two finals in 2018, but he knows he must be at his best to defeat the Greek in the next round.
“I know they are good,” Nadal said after beating Tiafoe. “I know they will be fighting for the most important things during the next couple of years.”
Tsitsipas, like Chung last year, has shown he is ready to compete for the biggest titles now. And he’ll look to move one step closer to Melbourne glory when he faces Nadal in the semi-finals.