Jannik Sinner made the first professional steps in 2018 and became the youngster to watch within the next couple of years. The Italian has passed over 500 rivals on the ATP ranking list in just over two years, earning Challenger titles, three ATP trophies, the ATP Next Gen Finals, a Major quarter-final and the Masters 1000 final, still as a teenager! A dedicated and hard-working young man lives for tennis, thinking about the game all the time and wanting to show his true colors against every rival. Rafael Nadal had trained with the young Italian a couple of times, and they traveled to Adelaide this January, where they shared the practiced court ahead of the Australian Open. Rafa and Jannik have already met twice within seven months, with the youngster pushing the more experienced player to the limits in four out of five sets, keeping Nadal on the court for five hours!
Rafael Nadal praised Jannik Sinner after their Rome Open clash.
Their first match came at the last year’s Roland Garros, when Rafa prevailed 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 after being a set down in the first and second set. Jannik served for the opener and built an early lead in the second, unable to make an extra step and take at least a set from the king of clay. This May in Rome, two great players battled in the second round, and Nadal scored a 7-5, 6-4 win after grueling two hours and ten minutes. The Spaniard was eager to bounce back after the Madrid Open quarter-final loss, staying aggressive to match Jannik’s pace and delivering five breaks to cross the finish line first. The Italian was a break in front twice in the opener and had a 4-2 lead in set number two before Rafa shifted into a higher gear and moved over the top without spending more time on the court. Praising Sinner, Nadal described him as a complete player who constantly works on his improvements. Jannik is currently ranked in the top-20, and he had already cracked the top-15 as a teenager, a rare feat in the past decade.
“Jannik is a very tough opponent, and I’m happy with the outcome. I’m delighted with the victory. Jannik is a complete player, and he is still improving all the time. You can not recognize the improvement in one day. To see the players’ progress, you need to follow their tournaments regularly. In Jannik’s case, you would see that his level is getting higher and higher. He has a great backhand and forehand, and I had to step in and hold the position without stepping back. I hit some very good crosscourt forehands to avoid his great backhand, and I think I did well. His level is not a surprise for me; I know how mighty his strokes are. I stepped on the court respecting Jannik a lot, and I was focused on every point. That helped me to earn the win. We played during the night sessions, and the conditions were slow. Jannik lost serve five times, but he still could have won the match in slow conditions,” Rafael Nadal said.