When it comes to mastering the unique scoring format at next week’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, Dominic Stricker may be able to turn to his love of golf for help.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Stricker recently told ATPTour.com after being asked about the fast-paced first-to-four-games set structure used at the 21-and-under event. “Because you really have to forget what happened maybe five minutes ago. If you don’t forget it, you’ve already lost the next set.
“It’s maybe a bit like golf. If you play one hole really bad, you just have to accept it and go to the next hole because if you don’t, a lot could go wrong.”
As well as the time he has spent on the golf course, the 20-year-old lefty Stricker will hope that the experience of training with ATP Tour legend and countryman Roger Federer can benefit him in tough moments during his upcoming Milan campaign.
“It is lucky,” said Stricker’s coach, Sven Swinnen, who spent two years as Federer’s classmate and daily practice partner at the Swiss national federation when the pair were in their teens. “Roger invited Dominic to Dubai twice already to do some practice, some pre-season stuff, so that was really helpful. Roger knows us now pretty well and we got some really good tips from him.”
“Of course, if you live in Switzerland…My one big idol [had to be] Roger Federer,” added Stricker. “Roger is Swiss and has a pretty similar game to how I would like to play.”
Stricker in action at Wimbledon qualifying in June. Photo Credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images.
Much of Federer’s career was defined by his battles with rivals such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and Stricker is excited at trying to establish himself among a new flock of young stars on the ATP Tour. He cites former Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champions Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner as inspirations but believes it might not be long before he and this year’s other Milan competitors are also ready to challenge the best in the world.
“[Alcaraz and Sinner] are so young,” said Stricker. “They are playing so good at the moment, it’s good to see that already guys my age, they can make the breakthrough. Holger [Rune] as well… It’s great to see, and then you know that you can maybe also get there in a few years or whenever.
“These guys are doing a great job and I don’t see that there’s a big gap between us, but I just have to keep doing my thing and it will come, I hope.”
The signs are certainly promising for Stricker. After launching his ATP Tour career in 2021 with a stunning straight-sets victory over former World No. 3 Marin Cilic at the beginning of back-to-back quarter-final runs in Geneva and Stuttgart, he has continued his progress this season. Two ATP Challenger Tour titles and a 4-5 record at ATP Tour events have helped him rise to a career-high No. 116 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
The Swiss is also becoming more accustomed to taking on the ATP Tour elite. He notched four Top 40 wins this season, against Aslan Karatsev, Maxime Cressy (twice) and Botic van de Zandschulp, while he also competed well against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Pablo Carreno Busta. His meeting with Tsitsipas on the grass in Stuttgart stands out for Stricker.
“[It was] a great experience,” said the Swiss. “A tough match, but he plays pretty well on grass and he played pretty well. It’s just great to play these guys to see where you stand.
“It was a pretty good match from my side, he played pretty good as well. It was [6-3, 6-4] but it was pretty close, and I had my chances as well. It was 2-2, I had break points, so it’s good to see that it’s not such a big gap.”
Dominic Stricker and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Stuttgart. Photo Credit: Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images.
Stricker’s strong 2022 season has earned him a debut appearance at next week’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. The Swiss is looking forward to competing at the Allianz Cloud in Milan in an event that he has previously only had the chance to admire from afar.
“I watched the highlights of the previous edition, when Carlos won,” said Stricker. “That was pretty impressive… I watched the [2018 edition] when Stefanos [won] too.
“It’s a special tournament, for sure, if you reach it. It’s something great, it means a lot and I think [it means] you’ve had a pretty good year, if you’re in the Top 8 of these young guys. It’s something special for sure.
“The format is something else, you have to be focused from the first point. You also have to be when it’s a longer set but I think if you play these short sets, it’s more important. I think [the format] is good, to have a new challenge.”