Setting records at his young age, Sinner is promised a brilliant future

Perhaps a victim of the weight of expectations, Jannik Sinner was beaten in the Miami Open final on Sunday. However, he is the only player to reach a Masters 1000 final less than two years after making his debut on the main tour.

Jannik Sinner, 2021
The name of Mate Valkusz surely doesn’t mean much to you. Maybe Jannik Sinner forgot him, too. But on April 24 of 2019, in the first round of the Budapest tournament, Sinner — as a qualifier — defeated the Hungarian wild card ranked No 323rd. With a wild scoreline that reflected the inexperience of the tall, lanky, red-haired Italian, Sinner — ranked 314th — prevailed 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.

There was Sinner, only 17 years and eight months old, advancing to the second round of his first ATP tournament. Unsurprisingly, Laslo Djere — then No 33 in the world and playing on his favorite surface — ended Sinner’s run with a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Already into the top 300 at such a young age, there was no doubt about his potential as a tall, powerful, and clever player. Sinner was the first player born in 2001 to have won a match on the main tour, a statistic that proved his talent.

Less than two years later, Sinner played his first Masters 1000 final at the Miami Open. Although he lost it, the combination of weight of expectations and Hubert Hurkacz‘s near flawless performance made the result understandable. Sinner’s run to the final, which most notably included defeats of Karen Khachanov and Roberto Bautista Agut, confirms that Sinner is making exceptional progress in his growth on tour. Since the ATP was formed, he is the only player under 20 to reach a Masters 1000 final less than two years following his main-tour debut.

Wasting no time reaching milestones

No one before him — not even the members of the Big Three, who had started to shine early — had advanced so quickly toward the top of the tennis world. In just 70 matches, Sinner has earned 44 victories. In those 70, these are some of the barriers through which the Italian has broken through:

  • May 2019: First match won at a Masters 1000 (d. Johnson in Rome)
  • July 2019: Enters the Top 200 (see the evolution of his ranking)
  • August 2019: First participation in a Grand Slam (qualified for the US Open, beaten by Wawrinka)
  • October 2019: First semi-final on the circuit (won three matches in Antwerp, beaten by Wawrinka)
  • October 2019: Enters the Top 100
  • November 2019: Wins the NextGen ATP Finals
  • January 2020: First match won at a Grand Slam (d. Purcell in Australia)
  • September 2020: First Top 10 win (d. Tsitsipas in Rome)
  • October 2020: First quarter-final at a Grand Slam (won four matches at Roland-Garros, beaten by Nadal)
  • October 2020: Enters the Top 50
  • November 2020: First ATP title (d. Pospisil in Sofia)
  • April 2021: First Masters 1000 final
  • April 2021: Enters the Top 30 (No 23)
Jannik Sinner

At Grand Slams, nobody has reached a final less than two years following his main-tour debut. In fact, dating back to 1990 only two teenagers have been finalists:

  • Pete Sampras at the 1990 US Open, a winner at 19 years old — two years, six months, and 18 days his ATP Tour debut that he made on February 22, 1988
  • Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open, winner at 19 years and three months old — a little more than three years following his first match on the ATP Tour on April 29, 2002

Nadal, Djokovic, Safin, Roddick, Agassi….

Sampras and Nadal admittedly started playing on the pro circuit at a younger than Sinner did. Nadal was 15 and Sampras was 16 and a half. But both took longer than Sinner to shine at the Masters 1000 level, however. Prior to Sinner, the “fastest” Masters finalists were:

  • Marat Safin, runner-up at Paris-Bercy in 1999 — two years and four days following his debut on tour
  • Andy Roddick, runner-up in Toronto in 2002 — two years, five months, and seven days following his debut
  • Novak Djokovic, runner-up at Indian Wells in 2007 — two years and eight months following his debut…then the winner in Miami two weeks — two years, eight months, and 13 days following his debut

Sinner still has this whole season to take that record from Djokovic. If he does, he would further walk in the footsteps of the greatest players of the modern era. Whether he captures a Masters 1000 title in 2021 or not, Sinner will be considered the first teenager since Nadal and Djokovic capable of measuring up against the very best players in the world.

Some stats released by ATP during the Miami tournament attest to this:

  • Sinner is the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since Nadal’s Madrid victory in 2005
  • Nadal (at 18) is the only younger Miami finalist
  • The only other Miami finalists under 20 years old are Agassi (champion in 1990), Nadal (runner-up in 2005) and Djokovic (champion in 2007).

Quite simply, the only players to have achieved success as fast as Sinner went on to win Grand Slam titles

Jannik Sinner, Miami 2021
Your comments

3 responses to “Setting records at his young age, Sinner is promised a brilliant future

  1. You forget Boris Becker: champion at Cincinnati and Wimbledon at 17 in1985, less than two years after his debut as a pro.

    1. Our story is about the 31 latest years, since the ATP Tour began. Before 1990, the frame of Tour was so different.

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