Djokovic protégé Medjedovic tops Fils for Next Gen crown

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JEDDAH
Hamad Medjedovic upset top-seeded Arthur Fils 3-4 (6/8), 4-1, 4-2, 3-4 (9/11), 4-1 to win the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah on Saturday.
At No.110 in the world, Medjedovic became the lowest-ranked champion in the six-year history of the 21-and-under tournament as well as the first Serbian to lift the Next Gen Finals trophy.
Having gone undefeated through the group stage before storming to the title, Medjedovic has received $514,000 for winning the event, which is nearly $100,000 higher than his entire career prize money earnings.
His triumph comes just two weeks after his mentor and compatriot Novak Djokovic lifted a record seventh ATP Finals trophy in Turin. “It’s a nice thing obviously.
The two of us from Serbia, he’s winning the big Masters I would say, the real one, and I’m winning the Next Gen, obviously it’s a huge thing and I’m really happy to follow his footsteps in some way,” said Medjedovic, who threw himself to the ground in disbelief after converting his third championship point.

“It was a very special feeling. I couldn’t believe it, I still don’t believe it. It’s going to give me for sure a lot of confidence for 2024. Obviously Arthur is an amazing player. Rankings-wise he’s much better than me, he’s top-40 for a reason, he’s very good. I’m just really happy.”

Fils, a leading candidate for the ATP Newcomer of the Year award, has enjoyed a banner 2023, which saw the French teenager rise from 251 in the world at the start of the year to a current career-high of 36.

There was no Cristiano Ronaldo ‘Siu’ celebration for the 19-year-old on Saturday – as he had done after every victory in Jeddah – but Fils has plenty to be excited about, especially as he heads to Kuwait next week for a training block with 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, who is plotting his return to the tour following a year-long injury hiatus.

“It’s amazing. I will practise during one week or two with Rafael Nadal so I’m very happy. I will enjoy every time on the court with him and I will try my best to play with him and to learn from him,” said Fils.

Medjedovic entered the final with a tournament-leading 50 aces struck through four matches and Fils knew he had to make an early statement on serve to send a strong message to his opponent.

Three aces from Fils in the opening game of the contest set the tone for what was to come as the duo combined for a total of 13 aces in the first frame, which the Frenchman took after saving two set points in the tiebreak.

A frustrated Medjedovic destroyed his racquet after squandering those two opportunities and took a toilet break between sets to change his clothes and calm down. It did the trick as the 20-year-old Serb broke early in the second set en route to a 3-0 advantage and he levelled the final at one-set all on the 53-minute mark.

Medjedovic leapt to a 2-0 lead in the third set, and had dropped just nine points in total since smashing his racquet after losing the opening frame. Momentum clearly on his side, the Viktor Troicki-coached youngster seemed unstoppable as he took the third set in just 20 minutes, without dropping a single point on serve.

A stunning stop volley from Fils earned him a pair of break points at 2-1 in the fourth but Medjedovic saved both for a clutch hold. Fils upped his game as he forced a tiebreak and saved two championship points before snatching the set on his third opportunity to take the final into a deciding fifth.

Medjedovic again walked off court for a toilet break and found his range upon return, breaking Fils’ serve to carve a 3-0 gap. It was all he needed to regain control of the contest and he sealed the deal with his 19th ace.

The Next Gen Finals is the first ATP-sanctioned tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia, with Jeddah set to host the event through 2027.