Ljubicic on Sinner: “He’s a thinker. He’s going to make slow moves up there, to the top”

In an exclusive interview, the Croat said Sinner’s progress may be steady rather than spectacular, but that he’s on the right track

Jannik Sinner Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon (Chryslene Caillaud/Panoramic)

Jannik Sinner sits at No 8 in the ATP rankings, one off his career-high and with just a couple of weeks short of his 22nd birthday, he is widely considered to be one of the new stars of men’s tennis.

Yet such is the speed with which Carlos Alcaraz has surged to the top of the sport, with two Grand Slam titles to his name, including last month’s Wimbledon, Sinner could be forgiven if he thought he was being left behind.

However, Ivan Ljubicic, the man who helped Roger Federer to win three more Grand Slam titles in the final years of his career, believes the Italian is on track to get to the top.

“He has improved, as he should at this age,” said Ljubicic in an interview conducted during Wimbledon, where Sinner reached the semi-finals of a slam for the first time in his career.

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon (Antoine Couvercelle/Panoramic)

“We can argue, is it fast enough, if those jumps are (high enough). I think Alcaraz has improved a lot the last 12 months. I think (Holger) Rune made a big step forward too.”

“In five years, it will be Alcaraz, Sinner and Rune, one, two and three”

A regular contributor to Sky Italia’s tennis coverage, Ljubicic admitted it was hard for him to be objective when he is “surrounded by Italians who are really shouting for him”.

But while Boris Becker, who worked alongside Ljubicic in Italy during Wimbledon, said he felt Alcaraz had improved more than Sinner in the past year, the Croat said Sinner was someone who is going to get to the top at his own speed, which is steadier than that of Alcaraz.

“It’s okay,” he said. “Five years from now, most likely Alcaraz, Sinner and Rune will be one, two and three, with Medvedev probably still around, you know, making their lives tough. Maybe some guys will, you know, surprise us. But this is what it feels at the moment.

“We being in Italy now, we would like to see this jump higher, bigger. But (his trajectory) is not disappointing, let’s put it this way. “

Lack of big matches slowed his progress in 2022

Though Sinner had match point against Alcaraz in the quarter-finals of the US Open last year, Sinner’s season rather ended with a whimper instead of a bang.

Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner at the 2022 US Open
Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner at the 2022 US Open Image Credit: Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

Ljubicic said he felt Sinner was playing catch-up in one respect, the kind of big matches that build strength and belief, until this year.

“Last year, I was disappointed that he did not have enough important matches, which I felt like was important because it’s clear that he’s a type of a player, that he’s going to do five quarters and then he’s going to move to semis and then finals. He’s not going to explode out of nowhere. He’s a thinker. He’s somebody who’s going to make slow moves up there.

“So I was sorry that last year he didn’t have any big matches and any semis, any finals. Now he’s making the step that he was supposed to do last year, he’s doing it this year, so he’s coming. There’s no question, I don’t know, is it this year, is it next year, is it in two or three years’ time. But his determination is there, so he’s going to keep coming up.”

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