November 10, 2019
Just when we thought tennis couldn’t get any more intriguing, up pops the wonderfully named Jannik Sinner.
And despite the name, it seems the 18-year-old Italian sensation can do no wrong.
Everyone thought Alex De Minaur would mop up the Next Gen tournament in Milan.
Finalist last year, full of spirit and increasing experience, we all knew the Australian had what it took.
Instead Sinner breezed it 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 to complete a remarkable year.
He saved all nine break points he faced. The kid just didn’t seem to feel the pressure, despite having a patriotic crowd to please.
‘It’s been an unbelievable week,’ he admitted. ‘Listen to the crowd!’
It’s been an unbelievable year, too. And Sinner’s fan-base is growing by the week.
People are rightly giving credit behind the scenes to his coach Riccardo Piatti, who has worked with Novak Djokovic in the past.
And if the teenager can keep laughing at the pressure and loving his tennis, why shouldn’t he become the next Novak in time?
Sinner has already beaten Gael Monfils, at the European Open a few weeks back.
And before that, Steve Johnson was a notable scalp in a year that has seen him rise more than 450 places in the rankings.
Now Sinner has broken into the top 100 – the youngest player in that prestigious group. But we would be amazed if he doesn’t reach the top 50 in 2020.
That’s how promising this wonderboy seems to be right now.
And to think, five years ago Sinner was more comfortable in the Italian mountains.
He is a child of the Dolomites, that jagged-topped and intensely beautiful range in the South Tyrol.
Who would have thought, in his formative years, that he would leave those sharp peaks to tear up the tennis rankings?
Skiing was his first love – and he was good at it too. A champion of the slopes.
But at 13 he made the decision to make a longer, harder climb instead.
Off came the skis. A racquet took their place. Step by step, he went past base camp and moved up through Futures and Challenger tournaments.
Now the peaks of tennis beckon. And Sinner’s strokeplay is almost as spectacular as the Dolomites themselves.
It will be fascinating to follow his progress. At the US Open, he reached the first round and that was regarded as an important milestone.
No one will feel comfortable at the prospect of facing him early at the Australian Open.
Let’s see if Sinner has enough devil in him to trouble the biggest names in Melbourne.
Beyond that, we can’t wait to see the new star of our sport at Wimbledon 2020!