Jannik Sinner wins high-powered US Open brawl with Stan Wawrinka to continue pushBy Sep 03, 2023
Coco Gauff led the way, but it was a wildly successful US Open for American tennis at largeBy Sep 13, 2023
Daniil Medvedev was stubborn to a fault at the US Open, but still came away a winnerBy Sep 13, 2023
With the Grand Slam season in the books, what's the state of the ATP Tour in 2023?By Sep 12, 2023
Four Grand Slam winners, five storylines: The state of the WTA in 2023By Sep 11, 2023
Novak Djokovic put on one of his most impressive physical and tactical performances to win a 24th Grand Slam titleBy Sep 11, 2023
Novak Djokovic wins the US Open for his 24th Grand Slam title by beating Daniil MedvedevBy Sep 11, 2023
Novak Djokovic has won 24 Grand Slam titles. Here is a look at each oneBy Sep 11, 2023
Djokovic celebrates No. 24 with a tribute to Kobe Bryant, who wore that number and became a friendBy Sep 11, 2023
Novak Djokovic's US Open title gives him 24 Grand Slam titles. No one in tennis history has won moreBy Sep 11, 2023
Jannik Sinner wins high-powered US Open brawl with Stan Wawrinka to continue push
Will the Italian get a chance to avenge his recent Flushing Meadows losses in the second week?
Published Sep 03, 2023
FLASHBACK: Highlights from Sinner's Toronto final triumph
NEW YORK—“Heavy metal tennis,” is how one commentator described the third-round match between Jannik Sinner and Stan Wawrinka at the US Open on Saturday. It’s true, Louis Armstrong Stadium, with its overflow crowd, felt as if it was hosting a summer rock festival, and the two men on stage were pounding out a brutal back-and-forth beat with their racquets.
Wawrinka has long been one of the kings of this brand of tennis. His one-handed backhand is the sport’s version of the Hammer of the Gods. Even at 38, he gave as good as he got against the 21-year-old Sinner for the better part of three sets. Sinner smashed and grabbed the first set, while Wawrinka battered through the Italian’s defenses in the second. After eight games in the third, they stood at 4-4, with the match in the balance.
Wawrinka served at deuce, and after rallying for a bit, sent one of his trademark backhands screaming down the line. Usually this shot doesn’t come back, and it certainly doesn’t come back even harder, at an extreme crosscourt angle. But that’s where Sinner, swinging to his left while sprinting to his right, managed to send it. A surprised Wawrinka did his best to track the ball down, but couldn’t catch up to it. Sinner had had taken Wawrinka’s best backhand punch, and answered with a knockout right of his own.
Sinner broke for 5-4, and held for the set after hitting another blistering forehand winner that came at the end of another monster rally. That was basically TKO for Wawrinka, who had to retreat to the side of the court and sit down after another long point. The fans in Armstrong had helped the older man keep his head above water for three hours, but he finally had to yield to the superior power and play of Sinner 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“I think in the key moments I handled it a little better than him,” Sinner said.
As he did in his run to the semifinals at Wimbledon, Sinner has moved quietly into the fourth round for the third straight year. While his more-famous young rival Carlos Alcaraz has played all of his matches in the biggest stadium, Arthur Ashe, Sinner has played all of his in the second-biggest, Armstrong. But that may change soon. Sinner has reached crunch time: In his next two matches, he could face the two men who beat him at the Open in 2021 and 2022, Alexander Zverev and Alcaraz.
Sinner has been patiently building for moments like these for more than a year. Last spring, he made the surprise decision to split with his longtime coach, Ricardo Piatti, and eventually brought in Darren Cahill. He was only 20 at the time, and had already cracked the Top 15. But he wanted more progress at a faster pace, and he wasn’t afraid to break up a good relationship to get it.
Since then, he and Cahill have worked on his serve and transition game, and increased his stamina and finesse, without taking him away from what he does best: pummel the ball. Last spring Sinner was ranked 12th; now he’s ranked sixth, and he just won his first Masters 1000 title in Toronto.
“Physically I’ve improved,” Sinner said during Wimbledon. “I can stay out on court many hours without suffering.”
“If I have to play slice, I can play now without thinking…I can go to the net knowing I have good volleys.”
From a mental standpoint, he says his success has fed on itself.
“You’re going in a slightly different mental side knowing you’re also a Top 10 player,” Sinner said. “It’s a little bit different. You may go as a favorite most of the time on the court until certain rounds.”
Sinner, much like the similarly youthful Alcaraz, has a tendency to try to blast his way out of trouble, and he did his share of that in the second set today. But by the end, he had found the right balance. He stayed up on the baseline, looked to hit a penetrating shot—rather than an outright winner—that he could follow forward and finish with a volley. His transition instincts have improved, and so has his drop shot, which he used frequently today to break up the slam-bang rhythm with Wawrinka.
After his win, Sinner paid tribute to the Carota boys, his signature crew of fanatics who don carrot suits for his matches. Still, he doesn’t yet have the following, or the Grand Slam titles, of Alcaraz. So far he’s Alydar to Affirmed, Karl Malone to Michael Jordan, Frazier to Ali. Yet he’s also 3-3 against Alcaraz, and he was one point from beating him at the Open last year. Together, they’ve already raised the bar for power-baseline tennis to a futuristic athletic level.
Sinner may get another shot at Alcaraz in a few days. If they face off, we’ll see if the Italian can claim the Hammer of the Gods from him, and move closer to a first Slam title.