Jannik Sinner finds grand success in 2024 Australian Open
Five months ago, during a changeover in his quarterfinal match at the China Open against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Italian tennis star Jannik Sinner was vomiting into a trash can. In a remarkable display of tenacity and perseverance, Sinner overcame this illness to defeat Dimitrov in three sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
This moment, needless to say, had little to no tangible impact on Sinner’s future play, but it does serve as an interesting benchmark when considering the progression of his career. The moment at which most of the more casual tennis world became acquainted with the 22-year-old was his epic match with fellow rising star Carlos Alcaraz in the 2022 U.S. Open, which Alcaraz painstakingly prevailed in.
From that moment forward, Sinner was considered one of the most promising players in the sport, alongside Alcaraz and Danish player Holger Rune. Until this moment at the China Open, he had won some ATP events and was always in contention at Grand Slams but had never quite taken the next step that Alcaraz had.
Sinner followed up his win against Dimitrov with a 7-6(4), 6-1 victory against Alcaraz himself in the semifinals and a 7-6, 7-6 victory against the No. 2-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the final to secure the tournament victory.
In the time between the China Open and the Australian Open, Sinner secured the Vienna Open in impressive fashion, defeating a pair of extremely talented young Americans, Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe, as well as No. 3-seeded Andrey Rublev before defeating Medvedev in yet another final. Following his victory at the Vienna Open, Sinner made the final of the ATP World Tour Finals in his home country of Italy, falling to the No. 1 seed and arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, Novak Djokovic.
All these victories were undoubtedly impressive, but the measuring stick for Sinner was always going to be his performance in the biggest moments: Grand Slams. Until this year’s Australian Open, his best performance in a Grand Slam title was a semifinal appearance in 2023’s edition of Wimbledon, falling to Djokovic in straight sets.
Entering the tournament, Sinner was regarded as a strong contender for the title, but, as with the rest of the field, was looking up at world rank No. and top-seeded Djokovic, 10-time Australian Open champion.
Early on, Sinner looked exactly as advertised, easily dispatching Dutchmen Botic van de Zandschulp and Jesper de Jong in straight sets. This blistering form continued throughout the middle stages of the tournament, with No. 26 Sebastian Baez, No. 15 Karen Khachanov and No. 5 Andrey Rublev all meeting the same fate: having their tournaments ended in straight sets by the Italian.
Into the semifinals at a Grand Slam for the second time, Sinner was rewarded with a matchup against none other than Djokovic, seeking to add to his extensive trophy cabinet with an eleventh Australian Open title.
It was in this match, against arguably the greatest player of all time, that Sinner made his first misstep of the tournament. After winning the first two sets with relative ease and looking to be through to his first final, Djokovic rallied to win the third 7-6.
Against many active players, this lead would still feel comfortable. Not Djokovic. Fans of tennis have seen this exact script many times before: A player, particularly from a younger generation, races out to an early two set lead against Djokovic. Upon realizing that they have a real shot at taking down one of the greatest to ever play, the player tightens up and plays much more conservatively in an attempt to avoid fatal mistakes.
In many cases, this fear causes the player to fall short, crumbling underneath the pressure. Not Sinner. Not at this tournament. Instead of crumbling, Sinner regained his earlier form, winning the fourth set handily at 6-3, securing his place in the final, where he was to meet a familiar foe: No. 2 seedMedvedev.
In many ways, the final was the inverse of Sinner’s semifinal match. It was Medvedev who jumped out to an early lead, winning the first two sets 6-3, 6-3, marking the second time at the Australian Open in which the Russian was one set away from securing the title. In the 2022 Australian Open final, Medvedev held a two set lead over Spanish legend Rafael Nadal before losing three straight sets and the match.
Unfortunately for him, this final was to be a repeat of that devastating loss. Sinner won the third set 6-4 before cruising through the last two sets 6-4, 6-3, securing his first Grand Slam title, which figures to be the first of many for the 22-year-old Italian.
An exhausted, triumphant Sinner spoke to reporters following the match, stating, “The process and the hard work occasionally pays off. Sitting here, with this trophy now, watching it, I still have to realize it because it’s one of the biggest trophies we have in our sport.”