Next Gen event off to rocky start

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-08 07:12

Critics slam tournament's 'sexist' draw

MILAN - The Next Gen ATP finals delivered all the promised drama even before a ball was hit, with organizers issuing apologies after Sunday's draw ceremony was blasted as "sexist".

The inaugural under-21 version of the ATP World Tour Finals opened on Tuesday in Milan, bringing together emerging stars tipped to rival Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

But a social-media storm was whipped up after the draw ceremony when the players had to choose female models who had the letter 'A' or 'B' hidden on their bodies, to determine the round-robin group in which they would play.

South Korea's Hyeon Chung looked embarrassed as he was asked to pull off a female model's glove with his teeth during an evening designed as a tribute to Milan's famous links with the fashion industry.

ATP executive president Chris Kermode apologized on Monday, saying the ceremony was "unacceptable, personally disrespectful ... and it won't happen again".

"It's unfair and unreasonable how we put these guys out there. It wasn't their choice, it in no way had anything to do with any of the players here tonight," Kermode added.

"Disgrace", wrote former women's No 1 Amelie Mauresmo on her Twitter account, while fellow French player Alize Cornet wrote: "Good job@ATPWorldTour Supposed to be a futurist event right?#backtozero." Judy Murray, the mother of former world No 1 Andy, tweeted: "Awful".

Kermode said he hoped the focus would be on the planned innovations which would be tested during the five-day tournament including shorter sets, no advantage scoring, a no-let rule and electronic line calls to speed up play.

"I've receive a huge amount of mixed response. We're not trying to 'mess with the game of tennis' but to try things that in five to 10 years we might eventually integrate into the sport," he said.

"While the sport is in the best place it has ever been, we want to look at innovations for the future.

"These guys are the future and they're going to be here for a long time."

The tournament gets underway without any bigname player, with Germany's Alexander Zverev, at 20 already too strong for the group, playing an exhibition match in Milan on Tuesday before flying to London for the ATP World Tour Finals.

'Something unreal'

The highest-ranked player in Milan is Russia's world No 37 Andrey Rublev, who won on clay at Umag, Croatia, this summer.

Rublev said he was honored to be considered among the heirs to Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray.

"Those four guys are something unreal, they are legends, I grew up with them and they are still top. To get close to them you have to put in a lot of work, only time will show."

Next Gen event off to rocky start

The 20-year-old Rublev is one of three Russians in the field including 45th-ranked Karen Khachanov and 65th-ranked Daniil Medvedev.

Khachanov sees a bright future for Russian men, who have not won a Grand Slam since Marat Safin claimed the Australian Open title in 2005.

"A lot of players from Russia are here. It's just a new generation, young guys playing together, getting connected," said Khachanov.

Canadian Denis Shapovalov (No 51), American Jared Donaldson (55), Croat Borna Coric (48), South Korea's Chung (54) and Italian qualifier Gianluigi Quinzi (306) complete the lineup.

"The US has a rich tradition of tennis greats, but among American men in terms of a Grand Slam winner," said Donaldson.

"It's just that the game has become more international. Looking at this group so many continents are represented.

"This tournament is about innovation, trying new things. It's definitely a cool, unique thing and I'm really looking forward to being part of it."

For Shapovalov the most difficult change is getting used to the no-let rule.

"For me that will be pretty challenging," said the 18-year-old, who was born in Israel but is now a citizen of Canada.

Chung added: "I'm so happy to be part of these great players here. I'm trying to play my best this week."

The top two from each group will progress to the semifinals, with the final set for Saturday to determine the best young player in the world.

The overall winner will pocket $1.2 million.

Agence France - Presse

 Next Gen event off to rocky start

From left: Jared Donaldson of the United States, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Russians Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy, Hyeon Chung of South Korea, Karen Khachanov of Russia and Borna Coric of Croatia pose at Monday's media conference ahead of the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan.Luca Bruno / AP

(China Daily 11/08/2017 page22)

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