Italian men’s tennis has gone through something of a revival over the last two years. Matteo Berretteni, Lorenzo Sonego and Leonardo Mussetti are a few of the young players who have made noise on the ATP Tour over the last year or two. All are talented young players with much to be excited about. However, Jannik Sinner is the star that shines brightest as we head into another year of tennis. The young Italian took the tennis world by storm last year. He finished 2020 with his maiden ATP title and a quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros. If 2020 was anything to go by, he will be adding a few more trophies to his collection this year. How quickly can the young Italian rise to the top of the game? We take a look at what lies ahead for Jannik Sinner in our 2021 ATP Tour Players to Watch series.
2019 Brings first signs of brilliance
The first sign that Sinner was something special came on the challenger tour in 2019. He won the Bergamo ATP Challenger title in February of 2019 at just 17 years old. In doing so, He became the youngest Italian ever to win a challenger title. He went on to win a second Challenger Tour title in Lexington later that year. The first real look we got at Jannik Sinner on the ATP tour was in his semi-final run at the European Open. He made it to the semi-final of the tournament beating Gael Monfils in straight sets along the way. He fell to Stan Wawrinka eventually, but moved inside the top 100 for the first time. Antwerp was certainly a statement of intent from Jannik Sinner, but he was only just getting started.
His strong showings throughout the year saw him awarded a wildcard for the 2019 ATP Next Gen Finals. He went on to win the tournament by defeating world number 18 Alex De Minaur in the final. He also secured wins over Frances Tiafoe, Mikael Ymer and Miomir Kecmanovic. What was most impressive about the win was the manner in which he did it.
Jannik Sinner plays a brand of fearlessly aggressive tennis that is a joy to watch. He has effortless power off both wings and isn’t afraid to use it. When the opportunity to step in and put points away presents itself he doesn’t hesitate. He has also shown deft touch at the net and a big serve for someone so young and slight of frame. In short, he was must see tennis. After his victory in Milan, Sinner won one more Challenger Tour title in Ortisei. It came as little surprise then that he followed a stellar 2019 with an even better 2020.
2020 brings first title and place in top 40
The young Italian made another strong start to the year. He won his first Grand Slam match in Melbourne, defeating wild card Max Purcell. I was lucky enough to watch that match and the effortless power and quickness of feet Sinner possessed made it obvious he could be something special. I will admit though that I didn’t see him having as good a 2020 as he did. He made the quarterfinals in Rotterdam, beating David Goffin to secure his first top ten win along the way. He lost to Pablo Carreno Busta in three sets eventually in a match he could and probably should have one. The suspension of the tour followed shortly afterwards, but Jannik Sinner picked up exactly where he left off on its return.
He made the third round of the Rome Masters, picking up a second top ten win by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas. The explosive Italian then made it to the quarter-final of Roland Garros. Sinner lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets, but came the closest of anyone in the tournament to taking a set off the Spaniard. He followed that up with a semi-final win in Cologne before securing his first ATP Tour title at the Sofia Open. In that tournament he again beat Alex De Minaur in the semi-final before besting Vasek Pospisil in the final to lift his first tour trophy. The win made him the youngest Italian to win a tour title in the Open Era.
This string of solid results saw him crack the top 50 in the world for the first time. Jannik Sinner finished the year ranked 37 in the world at just 19 years of age. In 2019 he turned turned heads. In 2020 he showed everyone in the tennis world that he’s the real deal. So, what lies in store for the Italian as the 2021 tennis calendar kicks off in earnest?
Big titles a certainty for the rising star?
Jannik Sinner has shown over the course of the last 12 months that he is already amongst the top players on tour. He has multiple wins over current and former top ten players at just 19 years of age. The Italian’s game stands out on the tour as clearly as his mop of fiery orange hair. Sinner has already claimed his first tour level title and shown that he has the game to be a threat on all surfaces. He looks certain to add to his lone tour title in 2021. We won’t be too surprised if he adds some bigger trophies to his haul in the near future.
Is Jannik Sinner to be included in the pool of likely Grand Slam Winners this year? probably not. Is he a dark horse in each and every one of them? almost certainly. As such, it’s only fitting that he is included in our 2021 ATP Tour Players to watch series. In fact, he just might be THE player to watch this year.