The 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM begins on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, but first, the 21-and-under stars visited Al-Balad, the historic old town of Jeddah, for this year’s official group photo.
Ahead of the first ATP-sanctioned event to be held in Saudi Arabia, players took time to visit the historical sites in Al-Balad, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
“We’ve had a really fun time,” said 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen. “Everyone’s been having a lot of laughs. People were great and to see the old city was really, really cool.”
Jordanian Abdullah Shelbayh received a wild card for the event. The Arab star enjoyed spending time with his competitors in Jeddah, where the players spent time exploring the local markets.
“It was exciting to do this with the players, they are pretty funny guys,” Shelbayh said. “It was good to spend some time together outside of competition.”
Frenchman Arthur Fils, who won his maiden tour-level title in Lyon earlier this season, showed off his driving skills in Al-Balad. The 19-year-old drove his fellow stars around in a buggy, receiving cheers of support.
“It was good,” Fils said. “I was driving the boys, it was easy. Everyone was smiling and laughing. It is nice to be with the boys as it is not often. It is a great city. It is nice and the people here are very welcoming. I am liking it.”
Fils’ countryman Luca Van Assche practised for the first time in Jeddah on Saturday before visiting the city.
“It is an incredible experience for us,” Van Assche said. “I have never been here so it is a new country for me and civilisation and I am happy to be here to see some of the city. It is very beautiful.”
“It is very nice here,” Nardi said. “We are having a very good day visiting the city. I like it and the people are very nice. My first time playing tennis on a roof. It was very nice and seeing kids come. It was a nice atmosphere.”
“It was a great day and I’m very happy to be here with the Next Gen class,” Cobolli said.
Green Group consists of Fils, Stricker, Cobolli and Nardi. Red Group consists of Van Assche, Michelsen, Medjedovic and Shelbayh.
Seven of the eight competitors are tournament debutants, with the exception of 2022 semi-finalist Stricker.
“It was a great tour,” Stricker said. “We saw a few things of Jeddah. Seeing the old buildings and taking pictures. It is a good event and I am looking forward to playing.”
Hamad Medjedovic was absent as he was a member of the Serbia team at the Davis Cup Finals.