WATCH: Sinner has become an expert escape artist in 2022, saving three match points to defeat Paul in Madrid.

Jannik Sinner has quickly become the ATP Tour’s resident escape artist, pulling off his inimitable Houdini act to defeat Tommy Paul, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3 to advance at the Mutua Madrid Open after facing three match points.

Sinner improved to an impressive 8-1 in three-set matches—half of those from match point down—and rebounded from his lone deciding-set defeat to Alexander Zverev at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters to send Paul packing in just under three hours on Manolo Santana Stadium.

“It was a very difficult situation,” Sinner explained after the match. “I was up in the first set, 5-2, and then I lost it. He played the tiebreak very well, and I made a couple of unforced errors in the beginning. The second set was kind of a roller coaster, but I’m happy to be in the second round here. Obviously, it was a tough match, and let’s see how the next match goes.”

The 20-year-old has endured a spring of stops and starts, having to retire from both the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open due to injuries, but is finding his form on clay even as a groin issue threatened to hinder the Italian early in the final set on Monday.

“I felt something in the tiebreak and I just wanted to check with the physio to see if everything was ok. I was able to play and it’s good that I don’t have excuses.”

The first of this intriguing new generation to break through with a maiden major quarterfinal at Roland Garros less than two years ago, Sinner has largely ceded the spotlight to Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who made his Top 10 debut—equaling his career-high ranking of No. 9—last week. Indeed, Alcaraz has claimed most of this season’s headlines, bettering Sinner’s 2021 Miami Open runner-up finish with a title run at the Masters 1000 in March and began the clay swing with a victory in Barcelona.


Still, there’s plenty to like about the world No. 12—from his shotmaking technique to his tenacious approach to the game, one that has regularly helped him rally from match point down. Before arriving at the Caja Magica, he had already pulled off the feat three times, most impressively in Miami, where he saved five against Pablo Carreño Busta.

On the brink of defeat today against Paul, who continued his steady rise up the rankings with back-to-back third-rounds in Indian Wells in Miami, Sinner thundered a forehand winner to save match point and broke the American as he served for the match.

Sinner would save three match points in total, including one on his own serve two games later, and rifled another forehand at 4-4 in the ensuing Sudden Death, forcing the error from Paul and securing the pivotal mini-break that ultimately leveled the match.

“I just try to stay focused on the present moment,” Sinner said of his iron will. “It’s the past, and you cannot change anything. Right now, I’m thinking more about my level because I don’t think it was one of my best performances, so I’ll try to raise my level for the next round and let’s see. But I’m happy to be through again because it was a very difficult match, and a very difficult opponent who played very well. He made a couple mistakes in the third set when I broke him.”

Easing through the final set, Sinner ended the match with four more unforced errors than Paul, but also 10 more winners, striking 31 in total to earn him only his second career win in Madrid, having reached the second round in his 2021 debut. Up next for the Italian is Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who was on the receiving end of a match-points comeback just last week in Barcelona—against Alcaraz of all people. Sinner and De Minaur last played at the Australian Open, where the former advanced in straight sets en route to the quarterfinals.

In a sport where experience is as important as efficiency, young Sinner continues to rack up major mileage in these tense matches, which may allow him to unlock his best tennis when it truly counts.