As we reveal this year's edition of The 21 & Under Club, we'd like to call your attention to Team Luke Hope for Minds, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports Texas families with children who have suffered an acquired brain injury. Headed by former Texas Tech tennis coach Tim Seigel, whose son, Luke, suffered a serious injury from a golf cart accident, Team Luke Hope for Minds has lost numerous fundraising opportunities throughout 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the organization, and for information on how to donate, go to teamlukehopeforminds.org
21 & Under Club: Hailing teen talents Sinner and SwiatekJul 30, 2020
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21 & Under Club: Hailing teen talents Sinner and Swiatek
Published Jul 30, 2020
ATP Rank: No. 73
UTR Rank: No. 43
What he's done since last summer: Won the Next Gen ATP Finals; semifinalist at 2019 Antwerp
There are a lot of things that stand out about 18-year-old Jannik Sinner.
First, there’s his last name, which will inspire pun-filled headlines for years to come. Then there’s the thatch of red hair that sticks out from under his baseball cap; depending on your age, it might call to mind a young John McEnroe or Andy Murray. Then there are his strokes, which he hits with the easiest power of anyone since Tomas Berdych. Serve, forehand, backhand: There’s not a hitch in any of them. According to the ATP’s calculations, Sinner already hits the heaviest backhand on tour.
But what may stand out most about the Italian is his demeanor. Unlike McEnroe and Murray, who were as fiery as their flaming locks, Sinner is a picture of expressionless calm on court. He’s little more than a rookie, but he never seems surprised by his brilliant shots, or rattled by his not-so-brilliant ones. Among his countrymen, he more closely resembles the stoical Andreas Seppi than the flammable Fabio Fognini. Which makes sense: Seppi and Sinner are both from South Tyrol, a district in the country’s mountainous northeast that borders Austria. Tempers run a little cooler up there.
For much of his youth, Sinner spent more time skiing the hills that surround his home than he did on the local tennis courts. Five years ago, he was a competitive skier first, and a tennis player second.
“It was just fun,” Sinner told atptour.com last year of his attitude to tennis at that age. “But now it’s a little bit more than fun.”
According to countryman Claudio Pistolesi, Sinner’s skiing skills have translated to tennis, in the same way they did for another avid slopesman, Novak Djokovic.
“He brings lateral skills from skiing in his movement around the tennis court,” Pistolesi said of Sinner, “and he steps into the ball automatically.”
How did Sinner go from weekend hacker at 13 to potential future No. 1 at 18? Italian coach Ricardo Piatti, who has worked with Richard Gasquet and Milos Raonic, among others, took him under his wing. But even Piatti can’t teach timing like Sinner’s, or maturity. Last year he used both to become the youngest player in the Top 100, and to win the Next Gen Finals in Milan.
Tennis doesn’t lack for highly-touted youth these days, but Sinner has taken his place at the top of the rising-star list.
“Jannik Sinner, that’s the future. For sure, Top 5 player, maybe number one. He’s the deal.”
—2020 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Goran Ivanisevic
WTA Rank: No. 49
UTR Rank: No. 43
What she's done since last summer: Reached the fourth rounds of 2020 Australian Open and 2019 French Open.
Iga Swiatek burst onto the scene in Paris last year with a stylish game, a boatload of confidence and a euphoric grin. Then ranked No. 104, she had tasted WTA success just weeks before in Lugano, Switzerland when she reached her first WTA final.
She'd end the breakthrough season ranked No. 61, a big leap from finishing 2018 at No. 175.
"As far as big things from Poland are concerned, Swiatek will soon have to add herself to the list," wrote WTA writer Jason Juzwiak. "After zipping to the junior Wimbledon singles title in 2018, the teenager completed her first full season at WTA level with aplomb [in 2019], and has the bona fides to prove that she has already become one of the public's top young stars.
Swiatek's superb season culminated with WTA fans showing their sturdy support for the up-and-comer. In a fan vote at wtatennis.com, one of Swiatek's deft drop shots during her run to the Lugano final was selected as the WTA Shot of the Year."
Off the court, fans have learned that Swiatek might come off as shy but she's the opposite of it. When Naomi Osaka chatted with the teen during an Instagram Live in May, the friends enjoyed reminiscing.
"I first saw you in Birmingham... and I felt like you were just staring at me. I was like, 'Why are you staring at me? Did I do something wrong?'," Osaka said. "But in Toronto, I was like, 'Oh, actually, she's very nice!', and I was surprised because I thought you hated me or something... so the entire time, I was like, 'Oh, no!'"
On social media. the teen has been showing off her athleticism, be it playing tennis on paddle boards and from boats, or mastering new warmups like grabbing a Red Bull off a water jug.
She's not afraid to share her ambitions publicly. After winning her second-round match at Roland Garros in 2019 on her 18th birthday, Swiatek posted the plans for her next birthday. She didn't get that chance this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with a future full of potential, Swiatek is primed to take in plenty of Parisian celebrations on her special day in the years to come.
Q. You have said already that the fourth round should mean a lot for a very young player. From your experience, what should this mean for her to being in the fourth round at the age of 18?
"It's tough, because I was not in that position so early. But I think she has to take the confidence and also to believe more that she has a chance to be in the top. She beat good players. She played fourth round of a Grand Slam. At 18 means a lot, and I'm sure that she's gonna go high, like, only up now."
—Defending champion Simona Halep after defeating Swiatek at the 2019 French Open
Monday, July 27: Sofia Kenin | Monday, July 27: Elena Rybakina | Monday, July 27: Alex de Minaur, Dayana Yastremska, Casper Ruud | Tuesday, July 28: Stefanos Tsitsipas | Tuesday, July 28: Thiago Seyboth Wild | Wednesday, July 29: Amanda Anisimova | Wednesday, July 29: Brandon Nakashima | Thursday, July 30: Coco Gauff | Thursday, July 30: Caty McNally | Thursday, July 30: Jannik Sinner, Iga Swiatek | Friday, July 31: Felix Auger-Aliassime | Friday, July 31: Carlos Alcaraz | Saturday, August 1: Denis Shapovalov | Saturday, August 1: J.J. Wolf | Sunday, August 2: Bianca Andreescu | Sunday, August 2: Leylah Fernandez | Sunday, August 2: Marketa Vondrousova, Miomir Kecmanovic