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Sinner fights past McDonald in Washington, D.C. for his biggest title

Jannik Sinner is an ATP 500 champion for the first time in his career after outlasting Mackenzie McDonald in three sets at the Citi Open on Sunday.

Jannik Sinner was already a two-time champion on the ATP Tour prior to arriving in Washington, D.C. But he had never won a tournament of this magnitude, and the way in which he did so on Sunday evening made it all the more momentous.

Sinner survived a positively wild Citi Open final, outlasting Mackenzie McDonald 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in two hours and 52 minutes. The Italian stuck nine aces while double-faulting only once and he broke McDonald five times — although he needed a whopping 21 break-point opportunities in order to do so.

Sinner survives wild first set

To say that the first set was a roller-coaster ride would be a gross understatement. Both players broke serve twice en route to a 5-5 deadlock, with Sinner surging ahead 3-1 only to give the advantage back in the very next game. The 19-year-old broke again for 4-2 but eventually failed to serve out the set at 5-3. In the 10th game McDonald saved an incredible six set points and managed to hold for 5-5.

A love hold for Sinner put the pressure back on his opponent and more drama ensued. McDonald immediately fell into a 0-40 hole but dug out of it to reach deuce. All in all, the world No 107 fought off an absurd 10 set points. At long last, however, Sinner converted his 11th set point when McDonald netted a forehand.

More clutch serving by McDonald

Sinner had a chance to take complete control of the match when McDonald faced two more break points serving at 2-3 in the second set. In typical fashion, the American erased his 15-40 deficit and crucially held for 3-3. With a bit of momentum in his favor thanks to that service hold, McDonald seized his first break of the evening for a 4-3 edge.

Two relatively routine holds later, McDonald forced a third set.

Mackenzie McDonald at the Citi Open

Similar third set goes to Sinner

More of the same continued in the decider, as McDonald once again played from behind basically the whole way and constantly had to battle back from the brink of defeat. The 26-year-old dropped serve in the second game and quickly fell behind 3-0. He had a chance to get back on level terms midway through the set, but Sinner saved two break points at 3-1 to hold. It seemed to be all but over for McDonald when he faced two championship points while toeing the line at 2-5.

Appropriately, though, it was not easy for Sinner to get across the finish line; not at all. McDonald thwarted both match points, held for 3-5, and then seized a break to finally get back on serve. Another hold from deuce evened up the score at 5-5.

Sinner was quick to put the pressure back on by holding at love for 6-5, and this time McDonald finally cracked. The underdog failed to covert a game point at 40-30 that would have forced a tiebreaker, after which Sinner took two more points in a row to clinch victory.

McDonald was playing in his first ATP final, while Sinner is now 3-1 lifetime in championship matches.

I dug as deep as I could. I left it all out there.

Mackenzie McDonald

“I think it’s tough with mental, because I had a lot of chances,” Sinner admitted. “I couldn’t use it because first he was playing better in the crucial moments. But I tried to work for one more chance and for one more chance and trying to break him like this. It was a little bit of a roller-coaster, to be honest, because I started well in the third set. I tried to going a little bit up with the rhythm, trying to play a little bit faster. I broke him like this. And then trying to serve it out I had two match points, and then after I was not serving well. He was returning well.

“(I was ) trying to stay mentally strong and obviously physically if you’re playing nearly three hours. I played doubles as well this week. So, as I said yesterday, [at 19 years old] if you play really long, you recover fast. So obviously it is physical, but I think most likely it was mental.”

McDonald’s mental toughness was on display from start to finish, even though in the end it was not enough.

“I dug as deep as I could,” McDonald said during the trophy ceremony. “I left it all out there, so I’m pretty happy with my performance.”

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