2018 Next Gen ATP Finals To Continue To Innovate
Following the success of the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in 2017, the second edition of the tournament, taking place at Fiera Milano from November 6-10, will continue to trial a best-of-five set format, shorter sets to 4 (tie-break at 3-All), No-Ad scoring, and No-Lets, the ATP announced on Tuesday at a press conference at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
Other innovations such as Electronic Line Calling through Hawk-Eye Live, a 25-second Shot Clock, In-Match player coaching via head-sets will also be back for the second edition. The player warm-up will be reduced by a further minute (from 5 minutes to 4 minutes) from the second player walk-on, while players will be instructed to use a towel rack at the back of the court to remove the onus on ball kids to handle towels. Free crowd movement in the stadium and a limit of 1 medical time out per match will also remain.
The first edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals, held in partnership with the Italian Tennis Federation and the Italian National Olympic Committee, saw the ATP’s season-ending 21-and-Under event put forward one of the boldest integrated presentations of innovation in the sport to date. The tournament’s leading role in innovation comes at a key time when innovation is being widely considered across the highest levels of the sport.
The 2017 tournament featured a series of high-intensity, fast-paced matches, with 11 of the 14 matches going to either four or five sets. The format, designed to generate more pivotal moments without drastically reducing the length of traditional best-of-three set matches, produced matches with an average duration of 1 hour and 36 minutes, marginally shorter than the average on the regular 2017 ATP World Tour of 1 hour and 39 minutes.
Match duration at the 2017 event ranged from 60 minutes to 2 hours and 6 minutes, compared to a much wider range of 39 minutes and three hours and 12 minutes seen in the traditional best-of-three set format on the regular Tour in 2017. Increased predictability of match duration is aimed to facilitate broadcast scheduling and planning.
Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, reflected on last year’s event: “This tournament has done exactly what it set out to in terms of giving our younger generation a real global platform. If you look at continued progress of some of last year’s qualifiers, such as Zverev, Chung, Coric, Shapovalov, among others, their progress is there for all to see. This year the likes of Tsitsipas and Tiafoe have stepped up in a big way and are clearly ones to watch. These guys are going to be at the top of the game for years to come, and we’re delighted that this tournament will continue to shine a light on our future stars.
“Tennis is a sport that is steeped in history and tradition, and there’s no question that should be safeguarded. However, this new event has allowed us to look at some potential changes, and we received very positive feedback from our stakeholders on the format of last year’s event. We recognise, however, that we need a bigger sample size to help us draw effective conclusions, so this year’s event will give us that continuity to help us assess which of the changes, if any, we want to incorporate onto the regular Tour for 2019.”
Angelo Binaghi, President of the Italian Tennis Federation, said: “Last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals success was a reward for Italy’s Tennis Federation and the Italian Olympic Committee in setting up such an amazing event.”
Last year’s event saw South Korea’s Hyeon Chung defeat Andrey Rublev in the final, with the tournament attracting more than 8 million broadcast viewers across the five days of competition. Chung subsequently reached this year’s Australian Open semi-finals to climb to a career high ranking of 19. The South Korean has reached the quarter-finals or better at seven out of his nine tournaments this season.
“The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals was a breakthrough event for me,” said Chung. “It was an amazing way to finish the year and really helped my confidence coming into the 2018 season. It’s a great tournament to promote the younger generation, and my win in Milan will always be very special to me.”
The Next Gen ATP Finals are set to stay in Milan through 2021. The 2018 tournament will offer US$ 1,335,000 in prize money and the current ATP Race to Milan standings can be found here.
The technological advances used across the 2017 tournament were recently recognised at the Yahoo Sports Technology Awards in London, where ATP & ATP Media won the Most Innovative Governing Body or Rights Holder Award.