Jannik Sinner in 2021: More and more titles, more and more expectations
The winner of four titles and having qualified for his first Masters 1000 final, Jannik Sinner had a fantastic season that saw him break the top 10 at the age of 20. The Italian is making rapid progress and his future looks bright
In 2021, Jannik Sinner confirmed his enormous potential. The Italian won four tournaments, including his first ATP 500 in Washington, as well as Melbourne 1, Sofia – where he retained his title – and Antwerp. He also played his first Masters 1000 final in Miami and at the end of the year he won the first match of his career at the ATP Finals, after being an alternate for the eight-man event.
His efficiency on hard courts (39 wins and 14 losses) makes him the fourth best player of the year on this surface, behind only Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Despite a zero score on grass, Sinner had a dazzling end to the indoor season, which allowed him to finish in the top 10 in the year he turned 20.
He was, however, thwarted when it came to Grand Slams – never going beyond the fourth round in any of them, and he made his disappointment plain.
Sinner’s ranking at end of 2020: 37
Sinner’s ranking at end of 2021: 10
Sinner’s win-loss record in 2021: 49-22
Sinner’s titles in 2021: 4
SINNER’S BEST PERFORMANCE IN 2021: A WIN AT THE ATP FINALS
Jannik Sinner battled hard at the end of the season to try to qualify by rights for the ATP Finals. In the end, it was Hubert Hurkacz who qualified for Turin thanks to his victory in the quarter-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters.
However, the Italian went to Turin as an alternate and the withdrawal of Matteo Berrettini, who suffered an abdominal injury in his first match against Alexander Zverev, changed the situation. A few hours before the second group match, the Italian learned that he was replacing his compatriot against Hurkacz.
At 20, he became the youngest player to participate in the season-ending event since Juan Martin Del Potro in 2008. But the South Tyrol native was not happy to just make up the numbers. In front of an enthusiastic home crowd, he got his revenge against the man who had deprived him of a first Masters 1000 title in Miami in April, becoming the youngest player to win his first Masters match since Lleyton Hewitt in 2000.
He came close to another big win in his second match against Daniil Medvedev when he held two match points but could not convert for what would have been his first win over a top-five player.
BEST GRAND SLAM PERFORMANCE: LAST 16 RUNS AT ROLAND-GARROS AND THE US OPEN
In 2020, Jannik Sinner created a big surprise by reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open, beating Zverev. He failed to match that performance at this year’s Grand Slam, but he confirmed his new status as a top player by reaching the second week twice.
On the clay of Paris, he beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert for his first ever five-set win, having lost to Karen Khachanov in the first round of the 2020 US Open and Denis Shapovalov at the same stage at the Australian Open this year. He even saved a match point against the Frenchman in the first round.
Like last year, it was Rafael Nadal who stopped him in the round of 16. But the redhead was not quite as dangerous this year when they met again at the same stage. Under pressure as he tried to take the first set at 5-4, he was then completely outplayed by the 20-times Grand Slam champion and lost 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.
In his third appearance at the US Open at just 20 years of age, Sinner played a great third-round match against Gael Monfils as he earned his second five-set victory of the year. Monfils, with the support of the crowd on Louis Armstrong, fought back from two sets down to force a decider but Sinner held firm. In the next round, despite a close duel, he lost 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 to Alexander Zverev.
THE BEST MOMENT OF HIS SEASON: HIS FINAL IN MIAMI AND HIS UNBEATEN INDOOR STREAK
In Miami, the first time he’d earned his way into a Masters 1000 by ranking (he was given wildcards in Rome in 2019 and 2020), Sinner made his way to the final. Professional in all aspects, the South Tyrolean native, who grew up on the ski slopes, withstood the stifling Florida heat and humidity in style.
His loss in the final to his friend Hubert Hurkacz in a hard-fought match – 7-6 (4), 6-4, was probably the first of many contests between the two. Karen Khachanov, Alexander Bublik and Roberto Bautista Agut, who were eliminated on his way to the final, were all aware of the young man’s ball skills. “You’re not human, man,” the Kazakh told him at the net after his quarter-final loss. “You’re 15 years old and you play like that? Bravo!”
Among the best moments of his season was his run of 11 consecutive indoor matches without losing a set. Sinner managed to retain his title in Sofia, before winning in Antwerp and reaching the last four in Vienna, where he was stopped only by an outstanding Frances Tiafoe, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
He also performed well with the Italian national team in his first Davis Cup appearance. Despite the quarter-final loss to Croatia, the number 1 “Azzurro” won all three of his matches, beating John Isner, Daniel Elahi Galan and Marin Cilic.
SINNER’S “WORST” MOMENT OF 2021: GRASS AND JUST FAILING TO QUALIFY FOR ATP FINALS
After the French Open, the switch from clay to English grass was not a success. In the first round at Queen’s, Sinner fell to world No 309 Jack Draper from Britain, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (2), and then in his first career match at Wimbledon, he lost in four sets to Marton Fuscovics. The Italian prodigy has yet to tame the grass courts, still chasing his first win on the surface. But don’t panic, it’s only been three matches so far – although that’s a strange stat for a player towards the top of the rankings and hoping to be a Grand Slam contender in the future.
When he returned to hard courts, he needed another tournament to find his bearings. In Atlanta, he suffered his third straight defeat when he fell to Australia’s Christopher O’Connell, ranked No 132, in his opening match.
SINNER OFF COURT IN 2021: A PRODIGY PAMPERED BY BRANDS, A BRAND HIMSELF
The list of sponsors that accompany him is growing. After Rolex, Alfa Romeo, Lavazza, Parmiggiano Reggiano and Gucci, the Italian bank Intesa San Paolo has signed a contract with the youngest member of the top 30. The Sinner brand was born. In April, he even presented his logo, an intertwined J and S.
“What’s kept you moving” is a series of interviews conducted by Sinner with promising personalities or young athletes posted on his social networks. In the role of the interviewer, the Gen Z member asks them about the things they have done to survive during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I spoke to a cross-section of people from different backgrounds, with the idea of giving courage, joy and support to people who are suffering during this difficult time,” he wrote on his Instagram account by way of introduction.
At the end of the season, Sinner rejuvenated himself by skiing at home in the Dolomites near the Austrian border. Skiing was the first sport of the Italian, who grew up in the mountains, before he decided to devote himself entirely to tennis at the age of 13. He clearly has lost none of his skills on the snow.
SINNER IN SINNER’S WORDS IN 2021: “A GREAT YEAR”
“It was a great year for sure,” he told www.atptour.com at the end of his ATP Finals run. “There were a lot of highlights and playing here in particular was an incredible feeling. I grew as a player, but also as a person, which is very important to me. I think I started the year 37th and I finish 10th, which is great. For me it’s a great pleasure to be one of these incredible players.”
“I grew as a player, but also as a person, which is very important to me”Jannik Sinner
“On the other hand I know what I need to improve, my team knows it too, so it’s going to be interesting next year. So I don’t want to rush, that’s the main goal for me. I’m 20 years old, I’ll be 21 next year, I still have a lot of years ahead of me to play on the tour.”
TENNIS MAJORS’ VIEW: A METEORIC RISE
Jannik Sinner is a phenomenon of precocity. In 2019, he won the Next Gen Masters and established himself as one of the future stars of tennis. The future is already here. While he is still eligible to play in the tournament for the eight best players under 21 in Milan, the Italian declined the invitation and aimed higher, heading to the ATP Finals as an alternate.
His progress is comparable to those of the great champions and he still has a lot of room for improvement. His maturity, his passion for tennis and the expertise of his team at Riccardo Piatti’s academy will allow him to grow even more next season.
Already among the top five on hard court, he will have to continue his efforts on clay and learn the nuances of the grass court game, which he knows very little about. The youngest player to finish the year in the top 10 since Juan Martin Del Potro in 2008, Sinner is firmly established in the elite and it is difficult to see him stopping there.