This week, the highest-ranked male tennis players 21 and under have been assembled in Milan to play a year-end tournament. These included the 18-year-old Denis “Shapo” Shapovalov, the flashy, long-locked Canadian who bulldozed into the fourth round of the U.S. Open this year; 20-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev, who became the youngest U.S. Open quarterfinalist in 16 years; and a handful of others. It’s a fine idea for an event: drum up some enthusiasm around a sport that may well suffer a minor PR crisis once Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer eventually slow down in next two decades. But it did not begin on an auspicious note on Sunday night.
Prepare yourself to cringe with every part of your body from the ends of your hairs to the tips of your toenails, then take a look:
The players were asked to select models, who would then reveal either letter “A” or “B” to indicate what round-robin group they’d compete in. The letters were often hidden on parts of the women’s bodies. The young men—who are, collectively, a good-natured but low-key bunch—appear tense as they are led around by the hand and danced at by the not-very-clothed women. It’s not pictured in the above video, but 21-year-old Korean Hyeon Chung was apparently asked to remove a model’s glove with his teeth; he looked much more comfortable playing Rafa on clay in Spain this spring.
After complaints of tastelessness from current players, former players, parents of players, and journalists, the tour issued an apology:
ATP and Red Bull apologize for the offence caused by the draw ceremony for the Next Gen ATP Finals. The intention was to integrate Milan’s rich heritage as one of the fashion capitals of the world. However, our execution of the proceedings was in poor taste and unacceptable. We deeply regret this and will ensure that there is no repeat of anything like it in the future.
The actual tennis part begins tomorrow.