Next Gen ATP Finals: Fils, Medjedovic Set Jeddah Final

Arthur Fils (photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour)

JEDDAH/WASHINGTON, December 1, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

Both Arthur Fils and Hamad Medjedovic maintained their perfect win-loss records at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia Friday evening. The top seed from France and the No. 6 seed from Serbia, both 4-0, will play Saturday evening in the championship match of the sixth edition of the year-end event for the best 21-and-under players on the ATP Tour. It is the first time a French and Serbian player has reached the final of the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Fils beats close friend Van Assche

As top seed Arthur Fils and No. 2 seed Luca Van Assche walked off the court following their one-hour, 37-minute semifinal battle that began play at the King Abdullah Sports City, there was nothing but good feelings among these two close French friends. It was expressed through their embrace at the net and both left the court smiling.

The 36th-ranked Fils may have downed No. 70 Van Assche, 2-4, 4-1, 4-3 (1), 4-3 (6), benefiting from his ability to produce plenty of clean ball strikes and heavy-hit winners against his fellow 19-year-old opponent. However, Van Assche left the court feeling positive about himself, too.

After splitting the first two sets, Fils won 23 of 24 first-serve points spread over the final two sets. He put away the victory on his fourth match point and finished with nine aces and 24 winners. As he’s done all week, Fils celebrated by mimicking soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s “Siu” celebration.

Looking back, in his on-court interview, Fils said: “Today was a tough match against a great, great friend. We’ve known each other since we were nine. So, it was a little bit tough and I’m happy with the win.

“I came onto the court with the mindset that I can win. The first set was tough, he was playing very good, and defending so well, running very fast. I kept my focus and I’m really happy about this win.”

Although this was their first meeting on the ATP Tour, Van Assche beat Fils, 6-4, 6-2, in the 2021 Roland Garros boys’ singles final. So, there’s a little bit of history among the Frenchmen but no bad blood.

“It was an amazing tournament and a great experience for the players,” Van Assche said in a post-match interview with the ATP Tour website. He finished the tournament 2-2. “It was a tough loss today but it’s been a great week.”

Medjedovic wins by retirement over Stricker

Two-time semifinalist Dominic Stricker, 21, of Switzerland cut short his last four match against undefeated No. 6 seed Hamad Medjedovic of Serbia due to a back injury, which advanced the Serbian Davis Cup member into Saturday’s final against No. 1 seed Arthur Fils of France.

The 110th-ranked Medjedovic, who like Fils finished group play 3-0, was leading the No. 3 seed Stricker, 4-3 (5), 2-1, when the match ended after 32 minutes with the 94th-ranked Swiss walking to the net to retire. Medjedovic had hit 12 winners and made just three unforced errors. He added five aces to his tournament-leading total of 50, dropped just three points on his serve and faced no break points.

“Honestly, I didn’t [know he was in pain],” Medjedovic said in his on-court interview. “It’s a really bad way to finish the match. I really hope [Dominic] gets better. He’s a really good guy.”

The 20-year-old Serbian, coached by Viktor Troicki, reached a pair of tour-level semifinals this season, in Gstaad and Astana, and has won a trio of Challenger Tour events in his young career: at Luedenscheid (2022), and Szekesfehervar and Mauthausen (2023).

By the numbers

There is plenty of incentive for the players to do well this week at the Next Gen ATP Finals, if money is any indication. Each player received a $150,000 participation fee as well as $32,500 for each group-play win. A semifinal win is worth $113,500 and the title winner will earn $153,000. An undefeated champion, which is guaranteed between Arthur Fils and Hamad Medjedovic, both 4-0 going into the final, will garner a bonus of $514,000.

“Quotable …”

“Every year, there are a lot of players at the Next Gen who perform well the next year, so I hope it’s the same again next year. I want to play better and win some titles and win a lot of matches in the Grand Slams.”

Luca Van Assche of France, during his post-match press conference Friday after being eliminated in the semifinal round by Arthur Fils.