Jannik Sinner’s rise up the ATP ranks has been nothing short of meteoric. This time last year, the Italian phenom sat outside the Top 100 with just three ATP level wins to his name. Now, the 19-year-old is projected to reach a new career-high ranking of No. 43 following his 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 win over Gilles Simon on Friday, and will crack the Top 40 with a title run.
Beating a player like Simon is a rite of passage for any young star. Defeating the Frenchman requires you to think outside of the box and use different game plans and shot variations. You don’t beat him by staying in your comfort zone. After overpowering Simon in the first set, Sinner dropped eight consecutive games, but ultimately wore down the 34-year-old with his relentless depth and pace. It might not look like much on paper, but it was a very impressive performance.
On Saturday, Sinner will face Alexander Zverev—who won the first edition of the ATP 250 in Cologne last week—for the second time in a month. Sinner defeated Zverev, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, at Roland Garros in a fourth-round match the German probably should have withdrawn from.
“What can I say? I’m completely sick,” Zverev said in his post-match press conference. “I can’t really breathe, as you can hear by my voice. I had fever, you know, as well. Yeah, I’m not in the best physical state, I would say. I think that had a little bit of an effect on the match today.”
Zverev typically brings his best against his younger peers, owning a combined 15-4 record against Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime. But perhaps no young star has a future as bright as Jannik Sinner. It’d be a tragedy if he never stopped skiing, because he was put on this earth to hit a tennis ball. One of the game’s cleanest ball-strikers, Sinner already owns the sport’s heaviest backhand, and a fearlessness to match his uncanny timing. The backhand to backhand exchanges against Zverev on Cologne’s ultra-slow hard court should deliver some of the cleanest hitting one could hope to see.
Their backhands are, for the most part, equal, but Sinner owns far more confidence in his forehand. The Italian routinely cracks forehands like this…
Zverev on the other hand, does not. Never underestimate the revenge factor on a tennis court, but Sinner’s unflappable ground game will likely prove too much for Zverev a second time.
The Pick: Jannik Sinner