Jannik Sinner Won His First Title – What’s Next For Him And Italian Tennis? - UBITENNIS
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Jannik Sinner Won His First Title – What’s Next For Him And Italian Tennis?

Right now, Italy is a country in pain (like many others) because of the pandemic and the concomitant lockdown, but at least yesterday the sports fans got a glimpse of a degree of brilliance that might extend over the next few years, and on loftier stages.

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Jannik Sinner (image via https://twitter.com/sofiaopentennis)

Article translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa

 

Jannik Sinner’s win in Sofia will perhaps be remembered as the watershed moment that steered a middling national tennis movement towards its erstwhile 1970s glory – as a matter of fact, Italy now has four players in the men’s Top 40 for the first time since 1977. Sinner is the youngest Italian to ever win an ATP tournament at 19 years and 3 months, bagging the 68th title for his country in the Open Era. 

The teenager admitted to feeling a bit of tension before the match, as well as when he thought to have it made when he got the break early in the second set after winning the opener – as icily driven as he might look, he is still a human being on the verge of breaking new ground for himself while setting a national record.  

That moment of crisis, which already happened to him in Paris against Nadal and on other occasions, brought Pospisil back into the match, dragging the bout to a decider and causing him to drop his racquet, a rare showing of emotion. 

It seemed like there was no way out of the funk when he had to face two break points in the first game of the third set. Moreover, it would have honestly been hard to forecast him as the champion in Bulgaria before the tie-breaker, since his opponent is a doubles champion (he won Wimbledon against the Bryans in five set in 2014, partnering Jack Sock) who not only does excel in the early shots of the rally (he has a big serve but his return isn’t inconsiderable either), but has also played hundreds of tie-breaks over the course of his career, and could thus rely on experience to quell his nerves – it should be remembered, however, that he had never won a singles title either.  

What happened, instead, was an absolutely spotless performance by Sinner in the decisive game, which he won 7-3 without conceding a single mini-break. What’s more, he knew when to lunge, upping his aggression on the Canadian’s second serve while 3-2 up, hitting a few shattering forehands at 5-3, including an acutely-angled winner, and stepping in again on the next point when Pospisil’s first serve didn’t connect. Kudos.

He looked like a veteran out there, he was calm and lucid, and he found the shots that sometimes abandoned him throughout the week (the forehand especially) when he needed them most. This poise is one of the factors that lead me to believe that he will be one of the best. 

However, it’s the blessings of so many champions, both past and present, that makes me believe that there is no fluke, and that his destiny is to reach new heights in a short time span. Pospisil didn’t just project him as a Top 10 player, he stated that he could go all the way to the rankings’ pinnacle. Yesterday, he played far from his best game, but this is a sign of surefire greatness, because he found a way to scratch his way to a win.

The pressure will certainly ease up in the next final, and the same goes for the third, the fourth, and so on. He will keep improving, a more important datum than precociousness records or discussions over his potential, a dangerous word that most of the time stays on paper. 

According to the runner-up, this young man has everything that it takes – the serve, the groundstrokes, the brains, the brawns, the tactics. To these, I would add that he possesses the right personality, the drive, the focus, and the desire to improve. Sinner has already earned close to 2 million dollars in prize money, and even more in endorsements from six different international brands – Nike, Lavazza, Rolex, Parmigiano Reggiano, Alfa Romeo, Technogym – but I am sure that this isn’t what he’s in this for. 

He also knows how to put things into perspective, like when he told me: “Right now, the most important thing is that my family and my friends are okay, I know that there are things that are more important than tennis. I could have been N.20 with a full season, but I’m at peace with that, I’ll think about it next year. What’s important right now is being healthy while perhaps hoping for an easier time when it comes to travelling in 2021. I take what I can get.”

Italy is a football-centric nation, but it has also borne witness to many affairs between the general public and athletes from individual sports – Valentino Rossi and the MotoGP, Federica Pellegrini and swimming, Alberto Tomba and skiing, Luna Rossa and yachting. Perhaps Jannik Sinner will be the one to turn tennis into a major sport in the country. Yesterday’s final was broadcast for free on national television, an almost unique occurrence – will it become a habit?

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Alexander Zverev Powers Past Erratic Nadal To Set Thiem Showdown

Alexander Zverev secured his best win of his career on a clay court by beating Rafael Nadal in Madrid.

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Alexander Zverev (@ATPTour_ES - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev powered past an erratic Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals in Madrid.

 

After a slow start Zverev produced some stunning tennis to knock out the five-time champion Nadal, who had an error-prone day at the office.

The German will now play Dominic Thiem in the last four in a rematch from the 2018 final.

It was the 20-time grand slam champion who started off the fastest as he looked to target the Zverev forehand early with uncomfortable spins and heights.

Eventually Nadal would get his rewards for an accurate tactical game-plan as a Zverev double fault handed him the break.

However that advantage was to be short-lived as the first point of the seventh game would change the momentum of the match with Nadal putting in simple unforced errors especially on the forehand side.

The German took advantage as he used his backhand to dictate points from the baseline. Furthermore, Zverev used his superior net play to his advantage by shortening the points and creating a faster tempo.

An unusual first set from Nadal’s perspective was complete as the fifth seed reeled off four games in a row to seal the opening set 6-4.

At the start of the second set, the Spaniard tried to up his level and intensity as he used some drop-shots at unexpected moments and attempted to bring the crowd into the match.

Despite this Nadal’s return game was lacking its usual ferocity as he couldn’t capitalise on Zverev’s second serves.

There was a lack of confidence in the Spaniard when implementing effective patterns of play as Zverev had a lot of success dictating play and winning the baseline and net rallies.

Another break in the fifth game ensured that Zverev’s dominance was being rewarded.

Although a double break advantage was denied, Nadal couldn’t deny victory for Zverev as the German sealed his first clay court victory over the ‘King of Clay.’

After the match Zverev admitted it was one of the biggest wins of his career, “Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said in an on-court interview.

“Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

Lots to ponder for Nadal as an error-prone performance sees him looking to improve in Rome next week.

As for the German, he sets up a 2018 final rematch with Dominic Thiem in the last four as he secured his best victory on this surface of his career.

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Dominic Them reaches semifinal in Madrid after three-set battle with Isner

Dominic Thiem is into the Madrid semi-finals after an impressive three set win over John Isner.

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Dominic Thiem (@atptour - Twitter)

The Austrian booked his spot in the semifinals after coming back to beat the American in three sets.

 

Dominic Thiem needed one hour and 55 minutes to beat the world number 39 John Isner in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 hitting 20 winners in the win while his opponent hit 26 unforced errors.

“We all know that he is one of the best servers in history and this altitude in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve but I was a little bit surprised by his return games, I think he attacked both my first and second serves and it took me a while to get used to it and I think the match changed when I saved those three breakpoints in the second set”.

It was the American who got off to the faster start holding his opening service game and then going on the offensive earning a breakpoint the following game and taking an early 2-0 lead.

The Greensboro, North Carolina native had a chance to go up a double break but the world number four saved both breakpoints he faced and managed to hold his first service game of the match.

That break was enough for the American to serve out the first set and he was one set away from the semifinals.

The second set stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Dallas, Texas resident had four breakpoints but failed to convert and the match was starting to turn with the American looking gassed.

In the next game the Austrian had three breakpoint and converted for his first break of the match as he served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

Isner was put under pressure early in the third set facing a breakpoint in the first game of the set but managed to save it and hold serve and it stayed on serve until 4-4.

That’s when the world number four earned two chances to break and on the second time of asking he would break and served out the match to book a date with either Alexander Zverev or Rafael Nadal.

After his match in an on court interview he gave this thoughts on a potential matchup with either Nadal or Zverev.

“It’s going to be a good one, I’ve played two big matches here against Rafa ( Nadal) and one big match against Sascha ( Zverev), and against either one of them it’s going to be an incredible challenge and it’s going to be exciting tomorrow”.

With the loss today by Isner when the new rankings come out on Monday it will be the first time in the open era and since the rankings came out that an American will not feature in the top 30 players in the world.

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Past Cancellation Of Clay Events ‘Double Motivation’ For Norway’s Casper Ruud

The 22-year-old is on a roll after scoring his biggest win yet over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open.

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Last year’s decision to scrap a series of clay events due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to the world of tennis but at the same time a blessing in disguise for Casper Ruud.

 

The world No.22 is enjoying a surge in his form on the Tour after reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters and Munich Open. Furthermore, this week at the Madrid Open Ruud achieved the biggest win of his career on Thursday after stunning Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4. Registering his first ever win over a top five player on the Tour. He is yet to drop a set in the tournament.

Ruud partly credits his success on the clay to events that happened 12 months ago when he was unable to play on his favourite surface due to the pandemic. The French Open did take place but later in the year where he reached the third round.

“It was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely forward to. I felt it was taken a bit away from not me but all the players when everything got postponed, some of the tournaments were cancelled,” Ruud said after his win over Tsitsipas.
“I think I just kept my motivation for a year and have double the motivation to be here this year luckily.’
“This (Madrid) was one of the tournaments that we didn’t get to play last year. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get.”

Growing up, the youngster trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and says his time there has shaped how he plays today. Toni Nadal, who is the former mentor of Rafael Nadal, remains ‘involved’ in his tennis. Although the 60-year-old is now switching his focus to working with Felix Auger-Aliassime. Pedro Clar, who he met at the academy, is still a member of his team.

“Pedro Clar is the one that travels more often with me. We have a very good relationship. He’s here (in Madrid) this week,” said Ruud.
“He’s been with me at some of my biggest tournaments and wins. When I won my first tournament in Buenos Aires, my first semifinal in Rome last year, Pedro was with me. I think it’s helped me a lot.’
“Also getting help from Toni. Now Toni is helping Felix more personally. But he’s always involved with my tennis at some point in my career. Also Rafa, of course, he helped me a lot the last years.”

The next test for Ruud in Madrid will be Alexander Bublik who he beat in three sets in their only previous meeting back in 2019. Should he win again, the world No.22 would be through to his third consecutive Masters semi-final on the clay after Rome (2020) and Monte Carlo.

At the age of 22, Ruud has already become the highest ranked Norwegian player in ATP Tour history. Coincidentally the record was previously held by his father Christian who now his head coach. Following his latest win, he is set to break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday.

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