Through the opening three months of the 2021 ATP Tour season, four #NextGenATP talents have set the pace in the ATP Race To Milan.
Two 19-year-old Italians — Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti — have achieved their best results at ATP Masters 1000 and ATP 500 events respectively, and are currently the youngest players in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. North American stars Sebastian Korda and Felix Auger-Aliassime are also in strong contention to compete in Milan from 9-13 November. Both players have reached ATP 250 championship matches in 2021, and Korda advanced to his maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami.
ATPTour.com takes a look at the four men who lead the Milan qualification race, and the other key storylines at the conclusion of the opening quarter of the 2021 season:
No. 1 Jannik Sinner, 995 points
Sinner started his 2021 campaign with a statement run at the Great Ocean Road Open. In his first appearance since his title run at the Sofia Open in 2020, the San Candido native dropped just one set en route to the Great Ocean Road Open trophy. Sinner saved a match point to outlast Karen Khachanov 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) in a gripping semi-final and took the crown with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory against countryman Stefano Travaglia.
The 19-year-old followed that success with back-to-back quarter-final appearances at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille and the Dubai Duty Free Championships, before making a major breakthrough at the opening Masters 1000 event of the year: the Miami Open presented by Itau. Sinner became only the fourth teenager to reach the Miami final (l. to Hurkacz) in the tournament’s 36-year history, following in the footsteps of past and present World No. 1s Andre Agassi (1990), Rafael Nadal (2005) and Novak Djokovic (2007).
No. 2 Sebastian Korda, 495 points
The American opened the year with consecutive final appearances to enter the Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. At the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com, Korda claimed back-to-back three-set wins against Tommy Paul and John Isner en route to his maiden ATP Tour final.
The 20-year-old built on his successful run in Florida by lifting his second Challenger title in Quimper. Korda battled past four French players to reach the final, where he charged past Filip Horansky 6-1, 6-1 in under 50 minutes.
Korda made headlines in his home state for the second time in 2021, when he charged through to his maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami. The Bradenton native earned his first Top 20 win against Fabio Fognini in the second round, stunned Dubai champion Aslan Karatsev in the third round and claimed his maiden Top 10 victory against World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman in the Round of 16.
No. 3 Felix Auger-Aliassime, 465 points
Like Sinner, Auger-Aliassime made an impressive start to his 2021 season at an ATP 250 event in Melbourne. The Canadian advanced to his seventh ATP Tour championship match at the Murray River Open, where he fell to Daniel Evans. Auger-Aliassime quickly built on his final run at the ATP 250 with his best performance at the Australian Open.
Auger-Aliassime did not drop a set en route to the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park, with wins against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, James Duckworth and countryman Denis Shapovalov. The 20-year-old’s tournament came to an end at the hands of eventual semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, who came from two sets down to beat Auger-Aliassime in a thrilling three-hour, 25-minute battle.
No. 4 Lorenzo Musetti, 385 points
Could 2021 be the first year when two home players compete at the Next Gen ATP Finals? Musetti began the year with strong form on the ATP Challenger Tour, with runner-up finishes at Antalya 1 and Biella 2.
In his first tour-level appearance of the year, Musetti claimed six straight wins from qualifying to reach his first ATP 500 semi-final in Acapulco. The 19-year-old beat Schwartzman, Frances Tiafoe and Grigor Dimitrov in consecutive matches to reach the final four in Mexico and crack the Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. Musetti, the youngest player in the Top 100, also advanced to the third round on his tournament debut in Miami.
Cerundolo Stuns Cordoba Field
With a 7-7 career record at Challenger level, Juan Manuel Cerundolo entered the Cordoba Open qualifying draw seeking his first main draw appearance at an ATP Tour event. He left with the title.
The then-World No. 335 won eight straight matches, including four consecutive four-set battles in the main draw to become the fifth-lowest ranked titlist on the ATP Tour since 1990. Cerundolo is currently in fifth position in the ATP Race To Milan (288 points). The Buenos Aires native is aiming to become the first South American to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals.
Korda is one of seven #NextGenATP stars to triumph on the ATP Challenger Tour this year. Brandon Nakashima, Sebastian Baez, Jenson Brooksby, Tomas Machac, Carlos Gimeno Valero and Dominic Stephan Stricker have also picked up trophies at the level in 2021. All seven players occupy Top 15 positions in the ATP Race To Milan.
2021 #NextGenATP ATP Challenger Tour Titlists
|Quimper II||19 years,
|Potchefstroom II||20 years,
|Nur-Sultan II||20 years,
|Quimper I||20 years,