Sinner Maintains Major-winning Form In Rotterdam

Jannik Sinner Australian Open

Jannik Sinner made it 15 wins in a row from the start of the year as yesterday, he added the Rotterdam title to his 2024 trophy cabinet. Sinner’s remarkable metamorphosis from multi-tipped contender to Major-winner has been astoundingly quick. Taking in the end of last season as well, when he won the Davis Cup virtually single-handedly for Italy (playing both singles and doubles), he has now won 20 matches in succession.

Short Offseason Helps Sinner Maintain Momentum

Tennis has the shortest off-season of any major professional sport; indeed, given the number of exhibitions and warm-up events that take place between the end of the regular tour season in November and the start of the Australian Open in January, there is hardly any tennis off-season at all. Although this almost certainly contributes to the number and type of injuries that players sustain, it does mean that if any player hits good form at the end of one season, it is much easier for them to maintain it at the start of the following season.

That is certainly the case with Sinner right now. He has the all-important “mo’”(momentum) that is so important to any sportsperson or sports team. Indeed, given his stunning start to the season, he appears at the moment to have almost unstoppable momentum, as he showed again in the Rotterdam final. Alex de Minaur has had arguably the best start to the season of any male player apart from Sinner, having finally cracked the world’s top 10, but despite commendable resistance from the Australian, Sinner eventually beat him in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4: two hard-fought sets, with one game at the end of the first set lasting over 15 minutes, but straight sets none the less.

De Minaur can take comfort from the fact that his performance against Sinner in Rotterdam was immeasurably better than his performance against the same opponent in the Davis Cup final. Then, the ridiculous scheduling of the tournament meant that de Minaur and his Australia side had a whole day of rest before the final, whereas Sinner and Italy had no rest at all after facing Serbia in the semis. Nevertheless, Sinner gave the best evidence possible that he was ready to win a Major by dismissing de Minaur with almost consummate ease, 6-3, 6-0, to secure Davis Cup victory for his country.

The Australian can also be consoled by the fact that since the transformation in form and consistency that has finally made Sinner a Major winner, which all started (it is now clear in retrospect) with his win in Beijing in the autumn, the only player the Italian has lost to is Novak Djokovic. This came in the final of the ATP Tour Finals in November. Even thus, Sinner has won his three next matches against Djokovic, in both the singles and the doubles in the Davis Cup final and, of course, in the Melbourne semifinal last month.

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Echoes of Djokovic In 2011

In fact, this major and Major-winning breakthrough for Sinner has been so good that it bears comparison with probably the greatest turnaround in a player’s form that tennis has ever seen. That was Novak Djokovic at the end of the 2010 season, the start of the 2011 season, and for most of the decade and a half since.

If anyone ever doubts the continuing relevance of the Davis Cup (and it is easy to, given all the shenanigans over its location and scheduling in the last few years), they should consider the example of Djokovic, who effectively became a great player after winning the team event for his country.

Indeed, winning the Davis Cup in 2010 was far more transformative for him than winning his first Major singles title, the 2008 Australian Open, had been. After that 2008 triumph, it would be another three years before Djokovic would again break the Federer-Nadal duopoly at Grand Slam events. By comparison, he won his second Major, the 2011 Australian Open, won two more Majors that year (Wimbledon and the US Open), and, of course, has gone on to become statistically the most successful male tennis player ever.

Although Sinner has so far emulated Djokovic by winning a Davis Cup for his country and then the very next Major for himself, nobody is suggesting that he can go on the kind of sustained, indeed seemingly unending, run that became one of Djokovic’s defining characteristics, both in 2011 specifically and in the rest of his career since.

From the end of 2010 to the French Open in 2011, Djokovic won an extraordinary 43 matches in a row, and ever since his tennis annis mirabilis in 2011, the great Serb has won a total of 24 Major singles titles. It is entirely likely that these are among the records of his that will last for a very long time, if not the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, what Sinner has proven beyond doubt with his spectacular run of form over the last few months is that he is now definitely among the top three male tennis players in the world, behind only Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, and that has been reflected in the latest ATP world rankings.

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Sinner Becomes Highest-Ranked Italian Man Ever

In fact, triumph in Rotterdam has not only taken Sinner into the world’s top three, but made him the highest-ranked Italian male tennis player ever, or at least since the introduction of computerized world rankings in 1973. (His fellow Italian great, Nicola Pietrangeli, was ranked unofficially at world No. 3 at one point in his career, but that was in 1959 before the official rankings were introduced.)

That is a further testament to the truly giant leaps that Sinner has made not just over the last few months but over the last year as a whole. A year ago in Rotterdam, he had lost in the final to Daniil Medvedev, a man he appeared unable to beat. A year on in Rotterdam, armed with a vastly superior serve, especially the apparent ability to continually find first serves when he is facing breakpoints, and the mindset of a Major-winner, he looks as if he can challenge at the top of the men’s game for a decade or more.

Even if that would not quite match Djokovic’s historic heroics over the last 13 years, it would still mean Sinner has a remarkable and multiple Major-winning career.

Main Photo Credit: Mike Frey – USA TODAY Sports


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