NextGen Stats Preview: Can Anyone Stop Carlos Alcaraz?

ATP NextGen Finals Carlos Alcaraz Brandon Nakashima Sebastian Korda Lorenzo Musetti Juan Manuel Cerundolo Sebastian Baez Holger Rune Hugo Gaston
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The “Race to Milan” for the NextGen Finals has been with us for a few years now since being launched as perhaps more of a publicity stunt to hype up the original “NextGen.” That first tournament in 2017 certainly had some names that are now at the top of the game. Alexander Zverev should have been #1 seed but was already #4 in the world at that stage and was playing in the ATP Finals the following week. However, Daniil Medvedev qualified as #7, alongside Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, and Denis Shapovalov.

Perhaps surprisingly now, Hyeon Chung was the champion of that first event. The Korean has struggled with injury for a long time now but it goes to show that, in this event, it isn’t always the expected winners that come through to take the title.

Subsequent champions have been Stefanos Tsitsipas (#1 seed) and Jannik Sinner (Italian wildcard). The tournament wasn’t held last year for obvious reasons, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens this week in Milan. Who will emerge as the NextGen champion? Maybe we can delve into some statistical analysis to help us.

The Key Stats

Compiling some of the key information on the players sheds some light on who we should be looking out for this week.

2021 Career Indoors Career
Player ATP Ranking 2021 Pts Wins Losses Total Played W/L% Service Hold % Break % Total Wins Losses Total Played W/L% Hold % Break % Total Tie-Break W/L
Group A Carlos Alcaraz 32 1454 43 19 62 69% 76.4 33.5 109.9 5 3 8 63% 76.5 24.7 101.2 69%
Brandon Nakashima 63 833 43 23 66 65% 83.7 23.8 107.5 30 9 39 77% 86.4 24 110.4 52%
Juan Manuel Cerundolo 91 765 46 21 67 69% 69.6 37 106.6 0 1 1 0% 88.9 88.9 177.8 60%
Holger Rune 109 639 55 22 77 71% 78.7 30.8 109.5 16 7 23 70% 82 25.7 107.7 63%
Group B Sebastian Korda 39 1195 32 19 51 63% 80.7 24.5 105.2 19 14 33 58% 77.7 23.4 101.1 51%
Lorenzo Musetti 58 906 35 29 64 55% 74.3 27.4 101.7 16 15 31 52% 78.5 21.8 100.3 63%
Sebastian Baez 111 656 49 14 63 78% 75 41.2 116.2 0 0 0 52%
Hugo Gaston 67 592 44 27 71 62% 70.6 33.5 104.1 19 19 38 50% 71.2 28.1 99.3 63%

Carlos Alcaraz is the hot favorite for the tournament, especially since his fantastic run at the US Open. However, we have already seen that this is no pre-requisite for success in this unusual format. His excellent tiebreak win percentage could come in really useful in the Fast4 format that is used in this tournament though. It signifies that he is capable of winning the key points when needed.

There are a number of players in the draw that have spent most of their year playing Challenger Tour tennis as well. This is not to say that it is easy to compile a good winning record on that tour, but the win-loss records aren’t necessarily that comparable. Sebastian Baez has by far the best win percentage of the eight, but Baez has played his entire season on clay on the Challenger Tour, it will be interesting how he adapts to the indoor hard conditions of Milan. He has never played an indoor hard tournament on the ATP or Challenger Tour.

Speaking of the conditions of this tournament, that brings Brandon Nakashima into the discussion. The young American has by far the best record indoors within the eight. He has played the most matches (39) and has the highest win percentage (77%) indoors. This is primarily a result of his excellent hold statistics, he has held serve 86% of the time across those 39 matches. When you are holding serve that regularly it makes the game a bit easier. However, he comes in with a very average 52% win rate in tiebreaks, which isn’t as helpful when you’re likely to play more than usual.

The Group Stages

The eight players have been divided into two groups. As the alphabet demands we will tackle Group A first.

Alcaraz is the clear favorite to qualify here. He is the player with the highest level of experience in the group and the one that has been most successful on the main ATP tour. The only doubt is around his mediocre record indoors, but that comes from a lack of experience more than anything else.

The Spaniard’s closest challenger is likely to be Brandon Nakashima. The match between those two could decide who wins the group. Nakashima has that indoor experience of course, but Alcaraz did win their only meeting which was on clay this year. Those conditions would’ve favored Alcaraz a bit more so Nakashima is not without a chance of turning the tables there.

Holger Rune is in danger of being underestimated though. As we can see in the stats he is no mug indoors himself with a 70% win rate, albeit mainly compiled on the Challenger Tour, including a recent tournament win in Bergamo. He has played by far the most matches this season of the group though and one has to wonder whether that might bite him here. I think he might have a chance of nicking the second qualification place in this group though. My colleague Damian Kust also pointed out that the Norwegian is the one who has risen the highest number of places in the rankings this season.

Juan Manuel Cerundolo could find this a tough tournament. Despite being an ATP title winner earlier this year, the Argentine is a born clay courter. He has compiled the vast number of his ranking points on that surface and up against three competent indoor hard players he could be up against it in each match. No doubt it will be a big learning experience for him though and he will hopefully use this as a springboard to have a more rounded schedule in 2022.

Prediction:

  1. Alcaraz
  2. Rune
  3. Nakashima
  4. Cerundolo

Group B

The favorite to escape the group is American Sebastian Korda. The big serving youngster burned brightly at the beginning of the season but I suspect these courts might be a touch slow for his taste. He generally finds it tough to break serve and, if you want to avoid too many tiebreaks, that is something you will need to do this week.

The door seems to be slightly ajar then in this group, but looking at the other contenders it becomes difficult to see who could burst through it. As mentioned above Sebastian Baez is a out-and-out clay courter, but the slow courts could allow him in and he is playing with a lot of confidence. However, I suspect that he might take slightly too long to adapt to this environment. He could be dangerous in his second and third matches.

Lorenzo Musetti has been much discussed as a huge talent this season, however he has slightly underwhelmed, especially in the middle and end of the season. He isn’t in great form right now but being amongst his peers, in terms of age, may spur him on to greater heights. He will be expecting to qualify from the group, but I think he will need to step up to do so.

I quite like the chances of Hugo Gaston to qualify. The Frenchman had a great run in Paris last week, defeating Carlos Alcaraz in a ridiculous evening match along the way. He is seeded #8 here and has had an inconsistent year but to me he seems to be one who rises to the big occasion. It would be good to see him do this outside of France, but this is an opportunity for that.

Prediction:

  1. Korda
  2. Gaston
  3. Baez
  4. Musetti

Who will win the NextGen tournament?

If my group predictions came off then Alcaraz would play Gaston in a repeat of their Paris Masters epic. In that match Alcaraz was 5-0 up in the second set before winning only four more points to lose it 7-5. If he can get over that mental hurdle then he is the outstanding favorite. However, I think that match showed that he is still fallible at the moment to pressure situations.

I think that if Sebastian Korda is fully fit, which he seemed to be in Paris, then he has a great chance of lifting the trophy here. He has shown that he can win tournaments at the ATP level and also on the Challenger Tour indoors. With a victory over Marin Cilic and taking a set from Daniil Medvedev he has hit the heights that no other NextGen in this tournament has indoors in their careers.

It should be a thrilling week of tennis in Milan and we look forward to bringing high quality coverage of it to you.

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