‘Rafael Nadal’s mental strength is on a different level,’ says young gun

Jannik Sinner became one of the youngsters to watch in 2020, winning his first ATP title and achieving the first notable result at Majors. The young Italian made an impressive debut in Paris and reached the Roland Garros quarter-final as the youngest debutant since Rafael Nadal in 2005. In the last eight, the clay king was his rival, and Jannik made Rafa run for his money before experiencing a 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss at 1:30 am on Court Philippe-Chatrier! Nadal had to work much harder than in the previous four matches to secure the 98th Roland Garros triumph, battling against a determined opponent before breaking his resistance in set number three. Sinner gave his best against a grand champion, wasting his opportunities in the opening two sets and having nothing more left in the tank for the third. Nadal scored six breaks from eight chances and gave serve away twice, completing the clash with 37 winners and 33 unforced errors.

They both held at love in the opening two service games before Nadal repelled a break point at 2-2 following the youngster’s loose backhand. There were no break chances in the next five games, as Sinner became the first player who took five games from Nadal in a single set last year in Paris. Not stopping there, a teenager grabbed a break at 5-5 when Rafa sent a forehand wide and served for the set and the best start of the encounter. With no room for errors, the Spaniard fired a couple of forehand down the line winners to pull the break back and level the score at 6-6 ahead of the tie break. Nadal opened a 5-2 lead and sealed it at 6-4 when Sinner sprayed a forehand mistake for a massive boost.

Jannik Sinner praised Rafael Nadal’s mental strength and skills.

The youngster placed a forehand winner at 2-1 in set number two to grab a break and forge the advantage. The more experienced player broke back immediately after Jannik’s forehand error and leveled the score at 3-3. In game nine, Sinner had a 40-15 lead before Nadal took four straight points to clinch a crucial break before closing the set at 5-4 and moving closer to the finish line after two hours and 11 minutes. Carried by this momentum, Rafa broke in the third set’s first game with a backhand crosscourt winner, held after deuce and broke again at love when Jannik sprayed a backhand mistake to open a 3-0 gap. In game four, the Spaniard held after deuce and sealed the deal with a break at 5-1, overpowering the youngster and advancing into the last four. Jannik praised Rafa’s mental strength, saying it’s on another level in comparison to most of the Tour.

“Nadal’s mental aspect is superior. He strikes hard like everyone, but he knows the moments and exactly what he has to do, how and when. It’s another level,” Jannik Sinner said.