At one level, the Next Gen ATP Finals constitutes a valedictory lap for its participants. At another, it delivers a tremendous spectrum of innovations that if studied closely and even attempted elsewhere can pose great possibilities for the entire sport.

Start with the tournament’s lure. Held since 2017, the Next Gen ATP Finals was created as a showcase of the highest ranked men who are 21 years old and younger. Past winners include Stefanos Tsitsipas, Jannik Sinner, and Carlos Alcaraz, each of whom rapidly blossomed into top tenners. Amazingly, two-time Grand Slam singles champion Alcaraz is still eligible, as is his fellow top tenner, Holger Rune. But, having participated recently in the ATP Finals, both opted out of an event they’ve each clearly outgrown. No. 17 Ben Shelton and 27th-ranked Lorenzo Musetti also were not in the field.

The absence of those four hardly mattered. For at heart, the very nature of the Next Gen ATP Finals minimizes the significance of who’s entered. The appeal is the chance to see some scarcely known and very promising young men who are rapidly making their way up the ranks. In Saturday’s final, No. 110 Hamad Medjedovic defeated No. 36 Arthur Fils, 3-4 (6), 4-1, 4-2, 3-4 (9), 4-1.

The 19-year-old Fils, ranked 251 at the start of ’23, made a big splash this spring in Lyon when he won his first ATP singles title with superb displays of crisp shot-making and excellent court coverage.

Progress has been a bit more methodical for the 20-year-old Medjedovic. Ranked 255 as the year began, the bulk of his ‘23 results have been generated at Challenger events.

At this stage of their careers, though, each man’s respective rankings is hardly proof of anything deeply significant. Versus Fils, Medjedovic dictated the pace of many rallies with powerful, flat, penetrating groundstrokes and tremendous serving. Medjedovic won a dazzling 88 percent of the points when he got his first serve in, successfully fought off all four break points he faced and hit 19 aces, including one on championship point.


Only in the two tiebreakers did Medjedovic reveal fragility. Leading 6-4 in the first set decider, Medjedovic lost four straight points, a setback that concurrently compelled him to shatter his racquet, take a bathroom break, and subsequently win eight of the next eleven games. Then, in the fourth set tiebreaker, Medjedovic held two championship points but was clearly nervous on both. “I wasn't relaxed, I was very stiff,” said Medjedovic.

As happened after the first set, Medjedovic instantly regained his poise and played terrific tennis. Having earned $415,858 in prize money prior to this week’s event, Medjedovic today won just over $500,000. “It was a very special feeling,” said Medjedovic following the match. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s going to give me for sure a lot of confidence.”

Medjedovic takes much pride in his homeland.  His coach is a fellow Serb, ex-pro Victor Troicki.  And he was also pleased to join Novak Djokovic as the winner of a year-ending event.  "Two of us from Serbia,” said Medjedovic in a story that ran on the Next Gen website.  “He won the big Masters, the real one, and I won the Next Gen. Obviously it's a huge thing and I'm happy to follow in his footsteps in some way.”

But the bigger implication is the tournament’s thorough commitment to innovation. It’s fascinating, for example, to watch matches that are best-of-five sets long. But each set is played to only four No-Ad games. On the decisive point, the server has the choice of which court the point will be played in—something I’ve never seen in 50 years of watching No-Ad. Further twists include no on-court warmup, faster times between points, shorter changeovers, free fan movement, and a lower umpire chair that makes it easier for spectators to watch the tennis.

So why not try a mid-year Next Gen tournament? A doubles Next Gen event? A WTA version? Adding a 21-and-under component to Laver Cup? Or this concept: Enduring Men Gen – an event strictly for men 32 years old and up who can showcase the skills that have helped them succeed so well for so long. Based on the current rankings, the top four would be Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Adrian Mannarino, and Jan-Lennard Struff. From the comprehensive excellence of Djokovic, to the sleek Dimitrov, the crafty Mannarino, and the powerful Struff, that’s a tremendously broad set of skills and styles. These are the experiments tennis needs to constantly take, evaluate, and attempt in various forms all year long.