There are just the two players remaining in the ATP NextGen Finals draw. Alex De Minaur will be looking to go one step further having made the final this time last year, while the newcomer Jannik Sinner will be desperate to get his hands on the trophy in front of home support in Milan. Who will be the last man standing?
Alex De Minaur vs Jannik Sinner
Head-to-head: First meeting
Alex De Minaur’s rise to the Top-20 has been well-documented. Starting off as a player lacking huge weapons, a frightening serve and a game built around discipline and hard work – he has managed to maintain some of his game’s key characteristics but has built on that through determination, recognising he needed to evolve in key areas, most notably beefing up the serve, changing his approach to a more expansive way of thinking. Still not possessing the easy power that someone like Sinner does, but being a bit more aggressive to compete with the stronger hitters on the tour. That change in approach has served him well on the indoor surface towards the end of the season, making the final in Basel, but also claiming three titles this season in a year to remember.
De Minaur has had to build his way into this week to a certain extent. Not necessarily at his sharpest at the beginning of the event, but maintaining the positive temperament and naturally being the player less likely to give things away from free against players looking for shortcuts in rallies. He began with a win over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in four sets before toppling Miomir Kecmanovic, but he then began to mean business from the final group stage match, losing just the three games to Casper Ruud and then beating good friend Frances Tiafoe in the semi-final.
Jannik Sinner’s route to the final has mostly been quite straightforward. The thing that stands out with the Italian’s game is that not only does he have the natural easy power to make his life much easier when the baseline rallies take place, but he harnesses that power so well in most of the important moments. He beat Tiafoe in four sets, then destroyed Mikael Ymer before losing a close one to Ugo Humbert in a match where he’d already qualified.
Sinner’s approach to a tennis match very rarely changes. An aim to be the aggressor, play the returns from inside the baseline, then gradually take control before finishing with the fine touches in the forecourt. Over the course of a tennis match Sinner’s body language and fundamentals never change, whereas with De Minaur it has been about a natural progression to being a player more comfortable with the development of his game and growing into a player that now possesses a lot of experience in these kind of matches. The question is simple – will Sinner be able to break through the defensive court coverage of De Minaur and will he have the discipline and application to be willing to hit three or four more shots to get the point over and done with. De Minaur also is the far better returner, so it will be intriguing to see just how much the Australian challenges Sinner, who has been serving well all tournament.
The feeling of the final is different for both. This feels much bigger for Sinner. As much as Sinner has gained a big reputation among big tennis fans and many can already see the quick moves he’s made in a short space of time. These are not moments that come along every day for Sinner, playing in front of his home support, with a big point to prove against the most decorated of NextGen players at the event, and the chance to get another Top-20 scalp to his name. There is a lot riding on this for the Italian. Whereas with De Minaur he’s an established Top-20 player now, who will see this as another opportunity, another title, so the pressure is a little bit different for both players.
I will just about edge towards giving the nod to De Minaur. I think he’s now playing like a Top-20 player, understands his limitations and strengths much more now, and he’s had far more experience along the way to help him towards these moments. Essentially we are going to get a matchup between the resilient De Minaur and the ice cool Sinner, so it promises a fascinating spectacle in the final.
Prediction: De Minaur in 5