U21 Race to Milan: Zverev still leads, Coric and Tiafoe burst into contention



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U21 Race to Milan: Zverev still leads, Coric and Tiafoe burst into contention

The AT Race for the inaugural U21 Masters in Milan is heating up, and the guys who made the biggest progress in the last 2 weeks are Borna Coric and Frances Tiafoe, who are both among the passengers to Milan at the moment. Alexander Zverev collected two wins in Monte Carlo, bringing his tally to 13 victories in 2017, and he stands at 655 points, far above all other contenders.

Borna Coric claimed his first ATP title in Marrakech two weeks ago, finally ending a streak of poor results that started after his knee problems following a great result in Cincinnati last summer (he won just 5 ATP matches between Cincinnati and Marrakech).

In an amazing final, Borna saved 5 match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber to top him 5-7 7-6 7-5, and with those 250 points, he propelled himself into the second place of the Race, with 435 in total. It was just a matter of time when will Coric start to play good tennis and after this first title he won we could expect more from him in the rest of the year, and he should be one of the 8 players in Milan draw.

Russian Daniil Medvedev is still 3rd with 315 points, but he will have to raise his game if he wants to stay in contention until November. Namely, 240 of these points came in Chennai, Montpellier, and Marseille, and since the end of February he won just one match.

Ernesto Escobedo had a great run in Houston, reaching his first ATP semi-final after a thrilling win over John Isner in 3 tie breaks, and with 281 points he is currently safe in the race for Milan. Frances Tiafoe won his 3rd Challenger title in Sarasota to move from 11th to 5th, just 9 points behind Escobedo.

Frances was the promoter of U21 Masters together with ATP president Chris Kermode, and he wants to earn the spot in Milan badly. Behind him, there's another player born in 1998, Norwegian Casper Ruud, who is on 251 points at the moment mainly thanks to Rio de Janeiro result, where he made the semi-final.

Casper qualified for the main draw in Barcelona and won one match, so his tally will increase when the new list comes out next week. With 246 points, Andrey Rublev currently holds the last direct ticket for Milan in 7th. Andrey gathered 130 points in his first two events, at the Australian Open and Rennes Challenger, but it was a struggle for him in the events that followed, as he just can't find the right rhythm for more than a year now.

Rublev was defeated in the first qualifying round of Marrakech, Monte Carlo, and Barcelona, failing to add some more points or to find at least a decent form before the upcoming clay events. 3 Americans, Jared Donaldson, Taylor Fritz and Noah Rubin are also in the Top 11, which makes this country by far the most dominant at the top of the Race, and they will try to move further up through the list, which is probably easier to be said than done.

The form of Fritz and Rubin is questionable at best, while Donaldson is also unable to maintain a high level in 3 or 4 back-to-back tournaments. Between them, Hyeon Chung is starting to find his game, he is still in contention in Barcelona and he is looking forward to carrying that form into the following tournaments as well, as he proved that he has the game to be in the Top 50 on the regular basis when he is not injured.

Super talented Canadian Denis Shapovalov is 12th in the Race, as the youngest player in the Top 20 and one of two who was born in 1999, together with Alex De Minaur. Russian Karen Khachanov probably expected to be ranked higher on the list at this point when the season started, following his first ATP success in Chengdu in October, but so far he managed to win only 170 points despite playing a lot of ATP tournaments so far.

Nevertheless, he is still in the draw in Barcelona and those points will help him to make a nice climb on the list next week. Felix Auger-Aliassime is 22nd, and he is worth of mentioning as the youngest player on the Race in the Top 100.

Felix is playing in China, on clay Challengers, gathering the necessary experience against much older rivals, and he should use the 2017 season as the learning curve in his quest for the Top 100 where we should see him next year without any doubt. Top 20 ATP U21 Race to Milan standings:

 
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