11/5/2018 9:52:30 AM

Rublev looks to bury injury nightmare in 'Next Gen' ATP Finals

Rublev looks to bury injury nightmare in

Milan, Italy: Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov was one of the emerging players who competed in last year's inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan which returns on Tuesday with another batch of eight rising stars of the men's game.

Khachanov capped an impressive year with the "biggest achievement" of his career as he stunned Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-4 in Sunday's Paris Masters final.

But for fellow Russian Andrey Rublev -- who finished runner-up to South Korean Chung Hyeon in Milan last year -- the 12 months since have been mixed.

The 21-year-old has been slowly returning after three months out with a back injury, dropping from a career-high ranking of 31 in February to 78 now.

Rublev is trying to go one better than last year in an eight-player field where Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas is the highest ranked player at 16.

"I didn't watch tennis at all for these three months," said Rublev. 

"I didn't want to know anything at all about it... I was not surprised, but I didn't know than many NextGen players like Tsitsipas ... were so high in the ATP Rankings."

"Now, I am feeling great," added Rublev, the only Russian in this year's field compared to three last year. "Physically, I am feeling stronger than before the injury."

The line-up also includes 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur, ranked 31; Americans Taylor Fritz (40) and Frances Tiafoe (44), Spaniard Jaume Munar (80), Poland's Hubert Hurkacz (79), and Italian wildcard Liam Caruana. 

Rublev has been drawn in Group B in the round robin tournament alongside Fritz, de Minaur and Caruana with Tsitsipas in Group A with Munar, Hurkacz and Tiafoe

The tournament showcases new innovations and this year for the first time a towel rack being placed at the back of court, meaning ballkids will no longer have to run to players with their towels.

Warm-up will only be for four minutes and not five like last year, starting from the time the second player walks on to the court.

But the format remains the best-of-five sets with shorter sets of four games, no-ad scoring at deuce and no lets on serve.

This year electronic line calls using the Hawk-Eye Live system, will be backed up by a video review system for the first time in men's tennis.

A 25-second shot clock between points and in-match headset coaching at the changeover also remain. 

The crowd will be free to walk on the grounds and players can take up to one medical time-out per match. 

"It means a lot to me (to play in Milan)," said Hurkacz, the only Polish player ranked within the top 200, who has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year. 

"It will build my confidence. It is a different kind of tournament with only eight players there, so it will be awesome to play there."

And the 21-year-old said he was excited to test himself against the likes of  Tsitsipas, Tiafoe and Rublev.

"I love competing and playing tennis," said Hurkacz.

"Especially if you can play on the big stages, it is even more fun to play in the biggest arenas against the best opponents."

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