The 2024 Australian Open Was A Showcase For The Surging Sinner - UBITENNIS
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The 2024 Australian Open Was A Showcase For The Surging Sinner

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He established himself as the first Italian man to secure a Grand Slam singles title since the gifted Adriano Panatta took the French Open crown at Roland Garros in 1976. He became only the eighth man since Open Tennis commenced in 1968 to rescue himself from two sets to love down in a major final, joining some estimable individuals including Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in that elite company. He succeeded in his first Grand Slam final despite drifting behind two sets to love against a formidable adversary, making his breakthrough all the more remarkable.

Above all else, Jannik Sinner confirmed at the Australian Open what so many astute observers had long known—that he is a great player with a wide ranging arsenal, a fellow with an unshakable disposition, and an indefatigable competitor with a growing sense of who he is and where he is headed. Sinner at 22 is just beginning to tap into his full potential. He is going to be collecting major titles for a very long time.

Sinner’s closing performance at the Australian Open was nothing short of stupendous. He was thoroughly outplayed by a startlingly assertive Daniil Medvedev across the first two sets of an absorbing final on a cool evening in Melbourne, but not once during this distressing stretch did he look beleaguered or pessimistic. Sinner simply kept doing his job to the best of his ability, bided his time until Medvedev’s game dropped a notch and then elevated his own play to meet the moment he had been anticipating for such a long time.

Medvedev came out of the blocks recognizing after a debilitating fortnight that he could not play his customary brand of percentage tennis. Turning himself into a human backboard was not going to work on this occasion with his body so spent. The 27-year-old stepped up the pace of his shots from the baseline considerably, driving his forehand at an average of six MPH faster over the first two sets and lacing his backhand four MPH harder than usual.

Not only was Medvedev taking control of rallies and giving himself all kinds of opportunities to finish points at the net (where he would win 32 of 45 points), but he was not allowing Sinner to have much of a say in how the match was shaped. Medvedev was also serving with uncanny power and precision. He unleashed six of his eleven aces in the first set and one more in the second. No matter how much pace he put on his shots, Medvedev seldom missed in the early stages.

This was a Medvedev the world had never seen, hitting out freely but still making very few mistakes, able to let loose without sacrificing one iota of consistency. He took the first set 6-3 by breaking in the third and ninth games, winning 17 of 22 points on his delivery and dictating almost across the board. 

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In the second set, Medvedev was even more devastatingly potent most of the way. He opened up a 5-1 lead, breaking Sinner twice and serving three love games in a row in that span. Serving for the set in the seventh game, Medvedev played a disappointing game, and then Sinner held to close the gap to 5-3. The second time he served for the set in the ninth game, Medvedev seemed apprehensive, double faulting at 40-30 and then falling behind break point. But he made Sinner play a difficult running forehand which the Italian could not handle. Soon Medvedev had sealed the set 6-3 to build a two set lead.

Both players held very comfortably through the first eight games of the third set. In that stretch, Medvedev won 16 of 22 points on serve and Sinner made good on 16 of 20. In the ninth game, however, Medvedev went full force after a break that would have enabled him to serve for the match. He got to deuce but uncharacteristically sent a forehand long that he should have kept in play. Sinner dodged out of danger, held on for 5-4 and broke Medvedev for the set in the tenth game despite Medvedev reaching game point at 40-30.

Sinner at last had found his bearings and raised his morale. It was two sets to one and Medvedev was deeply concerned. Set by set, Medvedev’s forehand was losing velocity. From his first set average of 81 MPH, he went to 79 MPH in the second and 75 MPH in the third. Sinner was moving in the opposite direction, going from 76 MPH in the first set to 77 MPH in the second and up to 80 MPH in the third.

And yet, Medvedev remained resolute. He saved a break point in the second game of the fourth set and erased another in the fourth game. At 3-3, Medvedev had his chance as Sinner served at break point down. He had been having significant success going out wide in the ad court, but now at this critical moment he went down the T for an ace at 126 MPH. Sinner closed out that seventh game with another ace for a 4-3 lead, and, after both players held in the next two games, the Italian made his move.

Eerily for Medvedev, he moved ahead 40-30 when he served to stay in the set at 4-5, just as he had done in the third set. But once more he could not garner the crucial hold. Sinner belted an inside out forehand to leave Medvedev stranded before releasing a swing volley winner. Medvedev was well off the mark with a backhand down the line on the following point and then Sinner blasted a forehand return that set up another scorching forehand. Medvedev was rushed into another error. Sinner had rallied for two sets all.

Although Sinner served at 15-30 in the opening game of the fifth set, he took the next point and then prevailed in a grueling 39 stroke exchange. As if to underline his supremacy, he served a second serve ace to close out that hold for 1-0. Both players held easily until Medvedev served at 2-3. His weariness was now strikingly apparent. The Russian missed a forehand wide down the line, made an awful approach shot that gave Sinner the easy pass, and then a serve-and-volley attempt completely backfired. Medvedev had put himself down 0-40. He saved one break point but Sinner took control off the forehand on the second and came up with a clean winner. He was ahead 4-2. On his way to a hold at 15 for 5-2, Sinner was the better man in a 27 stroke rally. That made it 40-15 and a Sinner service winner on the following point sealed the hold.

Two games later, Sinner served for the match, rolling to 30-0 before dropping the next two points. But then he came forward on the Medvedev backhand and forced an errant pass, and that set the stage for a spectacular match point winner off the forehand which rocketed down the line and into a wide open space. Sinner was victorious 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in three hours and 44 minutes. For Sinner, victory was supreme validation for his industriousness, craftsmanship and match playing acumen.

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But for Medvedev, it was another bruising setback. He has now lost five of six “Big Four” finals including an 0-3 record at the Australian Open, and he holds the dubious distinction of being the only man in the Open Era to lose twice in finals at Grand Slam tournaments after leading by two sets to love. The last time it happened was in 2022 when Medvedev not only was up two sets on Nadal in the Australian Open final, but also led 3-2 in the third with Nadal serving at 0-40 in the sixth game. Nadal came out of that dark corner to hold and eventually recorded one of his brightest victories by scores of 2-6, 6-7 (5) 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. That was the only time in 51 previous hard court career contests at the majors that Medvedev had not been victorious after taking the opening set.

On a more positive note, Medvedev made some admirable adjustments in Melbourne, moving up much closer to the baseline on his returns at various stages of his matches, and then swinging freely in the final. It is entirely possible that he is entering a new phase of his career when he will play less predictably, implement more offense, and turn himself into an even more foreboding player.

The paths taken by Sinner and Medvedev on their way to the final could not have contrasted more sharply. Sinner conceded only one set in his six matches while Medvedev was extended to five sets no fewer than three times. Moreover, Medvedev only once prevailed in straight sets in all of his skirmishes en route to the title round contest. Medvedev’s journey across the fortnight was considerably more rigorous than Sinner’s. He had spent twenty hours and 33 minutes on court while Sinner was out there for only 14 hours and 44 minutes. Medvedev lost his serve 23 times while Sinner had been broken only twice on their way to the final.

Let’s examine Sinner’s draw first. He opened his campaign in Melbourne against Botic Van de Zandschulp. Sinner cast aside the 28-year-old Dutchman 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 but not without some challenging moments. He saved five of six break points and surprisingly won only 69% of his first serve points while putting only 58% of those first deliveries in play. But the Italian stylist displayed his class when it counted, playing the big points a whole lot better than his adversary.

Facing another Dutchman in the second round—qualifier Jesper de Jong— Sinner advanced swiftly and confidently, coming through 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. He took 86% of his first serve points, 76% on his second delivery and did not face a single break point. That triumph carried him into a third round appointment with 23-year-old Sebastian Baez, the No. 26 seed from Argentina. Sinner crushed his adversary 6-0, 6-1, 6-3, saving all four break points he faced, landing 64% of his first serves and winning 78% of those points.

Now the battlefield was getting significantly more serious. Sinner took on Karen Khachanov, the 27-year-old from Russia who has become an increasingly reliable performer on the premier stages of the sport. He was a semifinalist at the 2022 U.S.Open and the 2023 Australian Open before advancing to the quarterfinals last year at Roland Garros. Khachanov has finished five of the last six years stationed among the top 20 in the world.

But Sinner was impenetrable once more against a dangerous opponent. He secured a 6-4,7-5, 6-3 victory, erasing nine of the ten break points against him, dominating on serve by taking 79% of his first serve points and a healthy 58% on second serve. On top of that, Sinner was not found wanting on the pressure points when Khachanov nearly broke back for 5-5 in the first set and then pushed hard in the latter stages of the second set to no avail.

And so the stage was set for Sinner to meet Khachanov’s countryman Andrey Rublev in the last eight. Rublev was not seeded fifth for no reason. He is a workhorse with some of the most potent strokes in the sport, particularly off his lethal forehand side. When he walked on court to confront Sinner, Rublev was appearing in his tenth quarterfinal at a Grand Slam tournament, hoping he could at last make it into a major semifinal.

No such luck. Sinner saved all eight break points he faced, won 76% of his first serve points, and acquitted himself handsomely across the board. The pivotal juncture in his 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 triumph was in the tie-break. He seemed certain to lose that sequence. Sinner was behind 1-5 but somehow swept six points in a row for a two set lead, and never looked back. His response to that predicament was remarkable.

Serving at 1-5, his first serve coaxed a forehand return error from Rublev. Then Sinner came out on top of a 24 stroke rally with a dazzling forehand crosscourt winner on the run. He cut the deficit to 5-4 with a backhand down the line that caught Rublev off guard. A body serve from Sinner provoked an errant return from Rublev to make it 5-5, and then the Italian moved forward commandingly and put away a forehand volley. Sinner concluded that stunning tie-break comeback when Rublev sent a backhand down the line wide.

Now the time had come for Sinner to renew his captivating rivalry with the top seeded Novak Djokovic in the penultimate round. This was the match everyone in the tennis cognoscenti had been waiting for. Djokovic, of course, was striving for not only an eleventh Australian Open singles crown but also a 25th major title after taking three of the four majors across 2023. The 36-year-old Serbian had not been in top form over the fortnight. At the United  Cup, he had suffered a wrist injury which clearly hampered him in a 6-4, 6-4 loss to the tenacious Australian Alex de Minaur. De Minaur was beaten at the Australian Open in a highly charged confrontation by Rublev in five sets.

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In any event, Djokovic had nursed his wrist injury in the days leading up to the start of the Australian Open, and then performed beneath his usual standards in four set victories over 18-year-old Dino Prizmic of Croatia ( 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4), and Alexei Popyrin (6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3). In the latter duel, Djokovic saved four set points late in the third set that eased his task in the fourth. He seemed inhibited by his wrist in the first two rounds and did not unleash his forehand with customary force, but thereafter he improved. Djokovic’s ball striking was markedly better in a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (2) third round win over Argentina’s Tomas Etcheverry. He followed with a highly disciplined 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 triumph over the left-handed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, a 35-year-old who had endured three five set matches in a row, culminating in a surprising upset of No. 16 seed Ben Shelton.

Next up on the Djokovic agenda was Shelton’s fellow American Taylor Fritz, fresh off an inspiring four set victory over 2023 Australian Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. Taking on Fritz in an afternoon appointment that carried on into the evening with the extreme heat testing the endurance and willpower of both players, Djokovic could not convert on 15 break points before he finally managed to take control and eventually record a 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win.

Djokovic and Sinner split four contests against each other in 2023, with the Serbian victorious at Wimbledon in the semifinals before Sinner achieved his first career triumph over the world No. 1 in the round robin at the ATP Finals in Turin. Djokovic retaliated with a resounding 6-3, 6-3 final round win at Turin several days later for a record seventh title, but less than a week after that they met again and this time in the semifinals of the Davis Cup it was Sinner who won a sparkling showdown indoors in Malaga, Spain. He rallied valiantly from triple match point down at 4-5, 0-40 in the third and final set to topple his iconic adversary 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

Djokovic had won the Australian Open all ten times he had reached the semifinals dating back to 2008, and many pundits figured he would rise to the occasion once more and eclipse Sinner on a court that has been essentially his kingdom for so long. Djokovic had won 12 of the last 19 majors he had contested since Wimbledon in 2018. Although Sinner’s form had been more convincing in many ways than Djokovic’s this time around in Melbourne, it was impossible to ignore the historical impact of Djokovic at the majors—and especially at the Australian Open.

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And yet, from the outset of his duel with Sinner, the Djokovic swagger was gone. The man who has taken over prodigiously in the premier arenas of the sport— and brought out his best over and over again when it has mattered the most— was largely missing. Sinner sensed from the very early stages that Djokovic was simply not Djokovic. He was a more shadow of his normal self. His timing was way off, his mobility around the court much slower than usual, his rally tolerance almost non-existent. Sinner, meanwhile, was almost letter perfect in his groundstroke execution, playing sound and authoritative percentage tennis, serving with extraordinary precision.

Most glaring of all, Djokovic was not creating any chances for himself on Sinner’s serve. None whatsoever. He would not garner a single break point—much less a service break—in the entire match. This was Novak Djokovic, widely regarded by everyone in the tennis world as the greatest returner in the history of tennis. Sinner swept through one service game after another with both ease and excellence, but he was untested and therefore able to remain relaxed.

The stylish Italian unhesitatingly built a 3-0 first set lead, sweeping 12 of 16 points in the process. Undoubtedly he was handling the windy conditions much better than Djokovic, who has struggled with his timing often over the years on similar afternoons. Sinner looked entirely comfortable driving his shots from corner to corner with extraordinary accuracy and remarkable ball control.

Djokovic fended off a break point before holding on for 1-3, but Sinner captured three more games in a row to close out the set in 35 minutes, sweeping 12 of 17 points in that span.

When Djokovic held at love to commence the second set, it seemed possible that he would establishing some kind of foothold in the match. But Sinner went on another spree as a listless Djokovic lost three games in a row once more, dropping 12 of 14 points as he fell behind 1-3. Serving at 2-4, Djokovic tried in vain to summon some energy and inspiration but, after two deuces, he lost his serve again. Sinner closed out the set 6-2, holding on from 0-30 in the eighth game.

Across those first two sets, Djokovic made 29 unforced errors while a determined Sinner had only eight. Sinner broke Djokovic four times and was never in danger on his own delivery. In fact, he won 33 of 43 points on his serve in the first two sets and only once did Djokovic even reach deuce in eight Sinner service games.

Djokovic found himself break point down in the opening game of the third set but realized he had to stop trying to outhit Sinner in shorter rallies and begin building longer points. In that game there was an 18 shot exchange followed by a 21 shot rally. Djokovic held on from break point down. Now Djokovic found a better rhythm on serve and off the ground. His accuracy was markedly improved and his ball striking became cleaner. Not until 5-5 when he was stretched to deuce twice before holding did Djokovic struggle on serve. In fact, prior to the difficult eleventh game, Djokovic had won 16 of 19 points in his previous four service games.

From that standpoint, Djokovic appeared to be gathering steam and playing the match more on his terms from the backcourt. He backed up his serve beautifully and started moving his shots around more precisely and purposefully in the rallies. But he was not making inroads on Sinner’s serve. In that third set, the Italian conceded only five points in six service games. They went to a tie-break. Djokovic had been victorious in 20 of his last 22 tie-breaks at the majors, and somehow he found a way to put this one in his victory column.

He led 2-0 and 4-2 but Sinner rallied to lead 6-5 with a match point on Djokovic’s serve. Sinner unloaded with a crackling forehand return, but Djokovic fended it off. Then he kept his next shot low and Sinner netted a forehand. Djokovic took the next two points on his terms, winning the tie-break eight points to six, narrowly salvaging that third set with a prideful display. He raised a fist to connect with the crowd, although it was a somewhat muted display that was symbolic of his demeanor on that day.

Sinner was not rattled about the loss of the third set because he knew he could count on his serve and realized that despite missing a bit more in the third set (he had 15 unforced errors whole Djokovic finished with 13) that he was still hitting the ball exceedingly well. At 1-2 in the fourth set, Djokovic had 40-0 and hit an impeccable backhand drop shot down the line. Sinner chased it down with astonishing alacrity and sent a sharply angled forehand crosscourt for a clean winner. A deep Sinner return rushed Djokovic into an error on the next point and then the top seed netted a forehand down the line before double faulting and missing a two-hander long off a clever backhand slice from Sinner. From that 40-0 lead, Djokovic had lost his range and conceded five points in a row to trail 3-1. That was an irrevocable blow to his attempted comeback.

Sinner went to deuce twice on his serve in the fifth game but ultimately held on for 4-1. Serving for the match, Sinner double faulted at 15-15 but followed with a compensating ace and then collected two more points from 30-30 to finish off a 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory. He was into his first major final by virtue of defeating Djokovic for the third time in their last four contests.

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Why did it happen? First and foremost, Djokovic correctly said it was one of his worst ever performances at a Grand Slam tournament. He finished with 54 unforced errors, 26 more than Sinner. Although Djokovic raised his level in the third set and for portions of the fourth, he never was anywhere near the peak of his powers. Sinner gave a sterling performance in his own right and could well have won in straight sets. He was unerring from  the baseline except for the third set. Even in the fourth, Sinner committed only five unforced errors while Djokovic had 12. Sinner won 83% of his first serve points and an improbable 63% on his second. While Djokovic was strangely out of sorts on the return, no one could fault Sinner for the soaring quality of his serving and how he always kept Djokovic guessing.

As for Medvedev, he was mired in difficulties from the beginning of the tournament. To say that his road to the final was considerably more rigorous than Sinner’s from the beginning of the tournament until the end is something of an understatement. Only once prior to the final did he manage to win in straight sets.  He opened against Terence Atmane, a 22-year-old Frenchman ranked No. 144 in the world. Medvedev served for the first set but let it slip from his grasp. Atmane eventually had to retire with cramps when Medvedev was leading 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, l-0. But it was an unconvincing performance from the No. 3 seed, who was suffering with cramps himself.

His next assignment was an arduous battle against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori. This hard fought encounter did not end until 3:40 in the morning and Medvedev was fortunate to emerge unscathed. He was down two sets to love and then took the third. But, serving at 4-5 in the fourth, Medvedev was two points from defeat. He got out of that set in a tie-break and ran away with the fifth as Ruusuvuori faded physically. Medvedev was a 3-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0 victor. He was a broken five times but survived despite hurling his racket at his changeover chair after losing the ninth game of that fourth set. Had the racket caromed off the chair and hit someone in the nearby box seats, Medvedev could well have been disqualified.

He came up against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round. Two years ago, the Canadian had a match point against Medvedev in the same tournament but this time around it was not much of a match at all. The 23-year-old hardly tested Medvedev, bowing out 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Waiting for Medvedev in the round of 16 was Nuno Borges of Portugal. Borges had overcome Grigor Dimitrov in a four set sparkler. The 26-year-old made it interesting against Medvedev but  bowed out 6-3, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-1 after the Russian squandered a 5-2 third set lead.Medvedev lost his serve four times and released eleven double faults, but played his most solid tennis in the fourth set.

In a stirring  quarterfinal, Medvedev overcame No. 9 seed Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Hurkacz had upended Medvedev in three of their previous five career meetings, and nearly did it again in Melbourne. Medvedev had been interviewed on court by Jim Courier after his match with Borges and spoke at length about how his deep return of serve positioning had evolved.

Lo and behold, he moved in much closer to the baseline at the start of his duel with the big serving Hurkacz. Medvedev got the immediate break and almost went up a double-break. Hurkacz managed to get back on serve and took the set into a tie-break which Medvedev won deservedly. When he built a two sets to one lead and moved ahead 4-2 in the fourth, Medvedev seemed poised to secure a satisfying victory. Hurkacz proceeded to win five of six games and bring about a fifth set, but Medvedev recovered his stamina and got the job done.

That earned Medvedev a semifinal collision against Sascha Zverev. The German was coming off an exhilarating win over No. 2 seed Carlos Alcaraz. Zverev took the first two sets and led 5-2 in the third set. He was two points away from an emphatic straight set win three times, but Alcaraz went on a magical spree to win the set in a tie-break. After losing the first two points, he swept seven in a row, producing five spectacular winners.

Zverev broke to start the fourth set  but gave it right back. Nevertheless, he was commendable in running out the match with three clutch games in a row. At 3-4 in that fourth set, he led 40-0 but Alcaraz twice made it back to deuce before Zverev held on. Then he promptly broke and held to close out the account 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

Seemingly, that hard earned victory over the No. 2 seed gave Zverev the inner belief to keep progressing. He had already been stretched into fifth set tie-breaks twice in the tournament against the qualifier Lukas Klein and the transformed Cam Norrie, who is making his way up to the net with more commitment and regularity than ever before.

Be that as it may, Zverev had lost five out of six times to Medvedev in 2023 despite frequently putting himself in a position to win. He believed that he would not allow that to happen in Australia. And the way he started this semifinal in Melbourne, it looked as if he would be true to his word.

Zverev won a bizarre first set, going up two breaks at 4-1, allowing Medvedev back to 5-5 and then ultimately taking the set with a third service break. From 1-2 on serve in the second, Zverev won five out of six games to lead two sets to love. He was well on his way to the final, but, not atypically, Medvedev refused to let go despite his ominous plight. In the third set, Medvedev was dangerously perched at 3-4, 0-30 but he served an ace at that propitious moment and held on. In the ensuing tie-break, Medvedev and Zverev were locked at 4-4 but Medvedev made a surprise move to the net from a deep position on the baseline and caught Zverev off guard. He took the next two points on serve to close out that set 7-4 in the tie-break.

There was more trouble ahead for Medvedev. At 4-4 in the fourth set he was 0-30 down on his serve again, but once more took four points in a row to hold on. That set was also settled in a tiebreak, and Medvedev nearly self destructed with a double fault at 4-4. He then rallied to 5-5 with a deadly inside out forehand creating the opening for a forehand winner. At 5-5, Medvedev was just plain lucky. He chipped a forehand return that somehow made it barely over the net and left Zverev unable to make a play. Serving at 6-5, Medvedev aced Zverev out wide in the ad court. He was back to two sets all. 

But the match was essentially over. From 2-2 in the fifth set, Medvedev won four out of five games, breaking Zverev twice, wearing down a debilitated opponent to win 5-7,3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3. Zverev won four more points in the match than Medvedev (165 to 161) and poured in 78% of his first serves. But this was reminiscent of his 2020 final round loss to Dominic Thiem at the US Open when he was up two sets to love and a break in the third and later served for the match in the fifth set before falling agonizingly short. Too many times when he is within striking distance of a lofty goal, Zverev does not do himself justice. His fragility in the tight corners of the closest contests is too often painfully evident.

It is also increasingly evident that Jannik Sinner is exploring the boundaries of his potential. By claiming his first major in Melbourne and toppling Rublev, Djokovic and Medvdev down the stretch, he demonstrated irrefutably that he is ready to contend for No. 1 in the world. Don’t be surprised if he wins another Grand Slam tournament later this year. In turn, look for Djokovic to use his setback against Sinner in Australia to turn up the volume of his intensity the rest of the year and reclaim one or two of the premier prizes left in this campaign. And remember that the two-time major champion Alcaraz—who has not won a tournament since Wimbledon—is a singularly creative player who will come around again soon enough. This 2024 season is surely going to be one of the best we have had in men’s tennis for a long time.

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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ATP

Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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