Don’t say Big Four in ’24 without mentioning Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner continues his steady rise up the rankings each season. 2024 could be his most impressive yet.
When it comes to Jannik Sinner, the wildly talented and surging Italian, all that’s missing is the Grand Slam title. And any conversation that claims to name the top four players in men’s tennis at the moment ought to include him. Yes, there’s Grand Slam juggernaut Novak Djokovic – the consensus GOAT pick – as well as rising force Carlos Alcaraz and steady and climbing Daniil Medvedev, and they are fixed solidly as the ATP’s top three.
But don’t sleep at Jannik Sinner. The 22-year-old will rise to No 4 on Monday and, based on the way he has played in 2023, the sky is the limit in 2024.
Now that Sinner has claimed his maiden Masters 1000 title and risen to a career-high ranking of No 4 in the world to become the first Italian man to achieve such a ranking in 47 years, it’s all about taking the next step.
Never satisfied, always striving
Should we be surprised that Sinner doesn’t want much recognition for his achievements? It’s always been about the next step for Sinner. Even as a coltish 19-year-old he didn’t buy into moral victories. Remember when Sinner lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros in 2020? Despite becoming the youngest player to reach the second week in Paris since Novak Djokovic in 2006, Sinner still saw plenty of room for improvement.
A month after his 19th birthday, ranked 75, he earned his first top-10 win in the round of 16 over Alexander Zverev, and became the first man to reach the quarter-final on his Roland-Garros debut since Nadal himself in 2005.
“I don’t watch that much about these kinds of records,” he said at the time. “At the end of the day you want to play well every match, trying to win every match.”
Sinner, who lost 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 King of Clay, wasn’t just happy to face Nadal and get a free tennis lesson. He came to win and when he didn’t he was disappointed.
“I know who is on the other side. I have a lot of respect for him,” the Italian said. “At the end you want to win.”
Three-plus years later not much has changed from Sinner’s perspective. He is still striving to find his very best level, still hungry to beat everybody he plays, and still waiting for a chance to prove himself on the Grand Slam stage.
The highest-ranked Italian
Sinner’s fantastic 2023 has been eye-opening on many levels. First, he’s continued to pester Carlos Alcaraz, and now leads the pair’s much-talked-about rivalry, 4-3.
With regard to that mouthwatering matchup, Sinner is still more than happy to give the two-time Grand Slam champion his due.
“At the moment it’s tough to talk about this rivalry,” Sinner said last week. “I feel like, because [Carlos] has won so many things at the moment, I think at the moment he’s still a better player.
“He has shown this… he was number one in the world already a couple of times and I think at the moment the biggest rivalry is him and Novak.”
In addition to his play against Alcaraz, there have been other breakthroughs for the Italian. Perhaps they are hard to notice when Alcaraz, two years younger than Sinner, is achieving so much more. But they are there.
Sinner reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon in July, then bagged his maiden Masters 1000 title in Montreal in August. His 49 wins and three titles have already eclipsed his 2022 stats (47 wins and one title), and there is still a month and a half of tennis to play in the season.
He will rise to No 4 in the ATP rankings next week as the first Italian ranking to hold a top-4 ranking since Adriano Panatta in August of 1976 – more than 47 years ago.
And yet, Sinner’s still muted about his success, always pining for what comes next, and hoping to become even stronger so that he can make his mark on the Grand Slam stage in 2024.
It’s just part of his tennis DNA.
“It means a lot for sure,” Sinner said of his ranking milestone after Wednesday’s final in Beijing. “Me and my team we practice a lot, we we have high expectations obviously, but it makes the work feel even more fun because you want to improve. For me the ranking right now is not so important at the moment. I know that that I have to improve many things but let’s see in the future – for sure I’m happy to be in a position where I am and obviously there’s still a lot of work to do.”