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Another painful Grand Slam defeat for Jannik Sinner but the future still looks bright

The Italian lost a tight match at a Grand Slam yet again but showed enough quality to suggest that his time will come

Jannik Sinner, Australian Open 2023 Jannik Sinner, Australian Open 2023 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Jannik Sinner walked off Rod Laver Arena last night, shaking his head.

The Italian played another great match at a Grand Slam, just as he did at the US Open last year. And, just as he happened at the US Open when Carlos Alcaraz saved match point to beat him there, so Stefanos Tsitsipas had just enough in the tank at the end to see him off in another five-set thriller.

“It’s tough right now for sure” Sinner said after his 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 defeat. “It’s a tough loss for sure. I have to go practice again but these kind of matches can go one way and the other. I had the momentum, I messed it up a little, didn’t serve as well in the fifth set and the momentum changed.”

“Just a couple of misses and the match changed fast. Tough, again. Don’t have words right now. He served well (on break points). I think I made the right choices but missed the shots. He served well and it was just a close match.”

Sinner played sensational tennis to come back from two sets down to force a decider against the Greek but third seed Tsitsipas held his nerve and took advantage of a few extra errors from the Italian to clinch victory and take his place in the quarter-finals.

Defeat for Sinner will be hard to take, not least since Tsitsipas beat him at the same stage last year. But the Italian showed more than enough in the four-hour battle to suggest that his time is coming. His backhand is a thing of beauty, his movement exceptional and his heart and attitude outstanding.

Sinner will rue missed break point chances

What cost him, though, is his inability to take his opportunities.

Sinner was 4/26 on break points against Tsitsipas, a return that’s always likely to spell disaster in the end. By contrast, Tsitsipas was 5/11 and he would have been better than that had Sinner not held from 0-40 early in the fifth set.

There was absolutely nothing to choose between them in terms of the stats; Tsitsipas won three more points and Sinner hit more winners. But in the final set, Sinner paid the penalty for some loose forehands and Tsitsipas, with the help of a vociferous crowd, took advantage. The quality of the match was so high it could easily have been a Grand Slam semi-final or final.

Time still on Sinner’s side

In Grand Slams, Sinner is now 0-7 against top-five opponents in Grand Slams. He’s also 1-15 against them in ATP events. A lot of that can be explained by the people he’s played; the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will make anyone’s record look bad, but it’s a record he’ll hope to change in the coming months and years.

And he surely will. For two sets, the third and fourth, he was scintillating, just as he was at the US Open, where he was one point from the semi-final against the man who went on to win the title.

At crucial times in the fifth set, perhaps he pushed a little too hard and the errors came, but after the disappointment dies down, he should take heart from his effort, his performance and his attitude. In short, everything but the result itself.

The two sets he won ended a run of 10 straight sets he’s lost to Tsitsipas, and it’s quite possible that the Greek is not a good match-up for him, rather than that he’s been found wanting in the biggest matches.

At 21, Sinner has time on his side and his breakthrough will come sooner rather than later, surely.

Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas, Australian Open 2023 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic
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