MILAN — Last year’s runner-up Alex de Minaur will have to overcome a partisan home crowd in Saturday’s final if he is to go one better and win the Next Gen Finals.
Top-seeded De Minaur of Australia will face Italian wild card Jannik Sinner after both won their semifinals on Friday at the season-ending tournament for top under-21 players.
The 18-year-old Sinner beat Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 2-4, 4-1, 4-2, 4-2 to the delight of the home crowd at the Allianz Cloud in Milan.
"I think the crowd gives you an energy which is very important for a player," Sinner said.
Kecmanovic saved three match points on his serve, but Sinner won the next game to love. He clinched the match with a forehand volley that had the fans on their feet.
"It’s unbelievable," Sinner said. "I didn’t feel so well in the beginning and he was playing very good, very aggressive. I’ve never had this kind of feeling, so I’m very happy. I think I’ve done a great job."
Sinner opened the year at No. 551, but he is now the youngest player inside the Top 100, having risen to No. 95.
Earlier, De Minaur beat second-seeded Frances Tiafoe of the United States 4-2, 4-1, 0-4, 4-2 at the tournament, which features a unique format where each set is first to four games.
The 20-year-old De Minaur dominated the match but had to recover from losing the third set. He sealed the victory on his first match point when Tiafoe hit a forehand into the net.
"It’s never easy playing someone like Frances. He has immense firepower and he’s never going to give up," said De Minaur, who has lost just one of his nine matches at the Next Gen Finals.
"I didn’t have my best third set, but I was able to bounce back and come up clutch in that last game."
De Minaur and Tiafoe are good friends on the circuit and that was shown by the American giving De Minaur a friendly slap on the head as he walked off court after the defeat.
"It’s difficult, but easier in some ways," De Minaur said about facing a friend. "It’s easy because you know that no matter what happens on the court, you’re still going to be the best of friends. In the same manner, you’ve got to remember that you’re opponents."
De Minaur, who is ranked No. 18, will be looking for a fourth ATP Tour title after victories this year in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai.
"I don’t see it as I’m the favourite, I see it as it’s just another tennis match," said De Minaur, before knowing who his opponent would be.
"You know here you put everything aside. It doesn’t matter what rankings, form, how you’ve been playing. It’s a tennis match, and you’re playing your opponent. It’s about whoever plays better on the day."
De Minaur lost the 2018 final in Milan to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.