Week 48 (NextGen)


Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, long envied its neighbours such as Qatar and the UAE for organizing ATP tournaments. Saudi Arabia finally made its debut by hosting the Next Generation ATP Finals, an event spotlighting the talents of the top eight players aged 21 and younger. Previously held in Italy since its inaugural event in 2017, this experimental tournament introduces unique rules not commonly seen on the professional circuit. Among this year’s innovations were: the absence of a warm-up, the first three games of a set being played on the same side of the court, and a shot-clock of 8 seconds between the first and second serves.
The event faced the lack of prominent players: Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune, both already among the top 8 players in the world, naturally withdrew, as did Ben Shelton and Lorenzo Musetti, both in the Top 20, deeming the unconventional rules less beneficial before the upcoming season.
Consequently, 19-year-old Arthur Fils [36] was seeded No. 1, considered a main favorite due to his notable ATP indoor performances earlier in the year. Despite this, in a tense final, he struggled against the exceptional serving of 20-year-old Hamad Međedović [110], the first player in the event’s history to win a five-set final. He did it not being broken. Both finalists destroyed their racquets in the process.
Interestingly, this year marks a significant moment for the Arabic Middle East as representatives from the region emerged onto the main-level. 20-year-old Abdullah Shelbayh, a ‘wild card’ entry in Jeddah, became the first man from Jordan to secure an ATP Tour match win this year (Banja Luka). Similarly, 28-year-old Benjamin Hassan, raised in Germany, but representing Lebanon, made a history for this country advancing to two ATP tournaments this autumn.


A triumph like Petr Korda‘s at the Compaq Grand Slam Cup ’93 (December 7-12) had not occurred before and would not be replicated in the future. What sets this victory apart is not only the remarkable length of the fifth sets the champion won in his last two matches but also the caliber of players he defeated. Korda endured thrilling encounters of opposing styles (offensive baseliner vs serve-and-volleyers), overcoming day-by-day the two best players in the world at that time: Pete Sampras (13-11 in 5th set) and Michael Stich (11-9 in 5th set).
Stich’s form was exceptional towards the end of the season, outshining every other player in the Open Era comparing the last few events of the year; solely performing at home, he secured the “Masters” title (Frankfurt), led Germany to the Davis Cup trophy (Düsseldorf), and in the München final against Korda [12], he managed to save a match point with a fortunate net-cord, creating a triple break point afterward. Despite the support of the German crowd and facing a visibly fatigued opponent, luck deserted him, leading to a dramatic loss in the fifth set.
Remarkably, the most lucrative event in tennis reduced its prize money in 1993, with the champion receiving a check for $1.625 million instead of the usual $2 million awarded in the three preceding editions. It’s regrettable because considering the entire history of that specific event (1990-1999), I’d argue that no one deserved those two million dollars more than Korda.
…Finals 2023…
Jeddah (“NextGen“; $2M; hard indoors)
🇷🇸Hamad Međedović d. 🇫🇷Arthur Fils 3-4(6), 4-1, 4-2, 3-4(9), 4-1
…Finals 1993…
München (“Grand Slam Cup“; $6M; carpet indoors)
🇨🇿Petr Korda d. 🇩🇪Michael Stich 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 2-6, 11-9
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