How Jannik Sinner won the Australian Open and rewrote tennis history


If Jannik Sinner hadn’t been a tennis player, he would have been an astronaut. He might have been a little late to be the first man on the Moon, but hey, there’s always something to set foot on Mars (right, Elon?). Luckily, however, he decided to become a tennis player – who won the ballot with skiing: we came very close to having 60 million ski instructors on social media in recent days – and became the man of the first times with a racket in hand. He will probably never go to Mars (right, Elon?), but he brought Italian tennis to Mars: where he had never been before.

Jannik’s red planet is called Australia, where he became the first Italian tennis player to reach the final and win it, after a very difficult match against Daniil Medvedev. Do you know how long the Australian Open has been around? For 119 years. Sinner is also the first to reach the final of a Slam played on hard court: the other compatriots capable of reaching the final act of a Slam in the men’s field did so on clay (De Stefani, Pietrangeli, Panatta) or on grass (Berrettini).

The first Italian in the final of the Australian Open and the ATP Finals

Talking about Sinner today implies an implicit reasoning: there is nothing it cannot do. He has become one of those champions for whom we are no longer surprised (anymore) by certain results, by certain match management, by certain goals achieved. (Not even him: perhaps most of all this was demonstrated by the semi-final against Djokovic , played in control and ended – see final reaction – in control). Unlike the champions we have seen emerge over the years, whether they were called Sampras, Federer, Nadal or Alcaraz, Sinner has a new characteristic: he is Italian. And this is why we continue to surprise ourselves and roll our eyes, and who knows how much longer we will do so. Jannik is writing the history of Italian sport, and we are witnessing history taking new shape.

This is why Jannik Sinner’s tennis is a story of firsts: at the Australian Open , but not only. Already in the last months of last year the South Tyrolean became the first Italian to qualify for the semi-final , and then the final, of the ATP Finals – with the perfect coincidence of a tournament hosted in Turin. More or less in the same period, he equaled three important cornerstones of the career of Adriano Panatta, universally recognized as the best tennis player Italy has ever had: the best ranking of an Italian tennis player (number 4) , the highest number of ATP titles won (ten, with the record of four won in a single year, in 2021), the victory of the Davis Cup. With Berrettini, however, Jannik shares the record of having reached at least the quarter-finals in each of the four Slam tournaments.

The first tennis player to destroy the myth of Djokovic’s omnipotence

The final against Medvedev was the first Australian Open final not to feature any of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic since 2005. Do you know how old Sinner was at the time? Three. And six when Nole won his first title in Melbourne. The victory in the semifinals over the world number 1 takes on all the contours of the classic generational turnaround . But then there is the way in which he did it and the connected meanings, given that Sinner has a certain passion – also full of firsts – in dethroning the world tennis despots.

The victory against Djokovic, in fact: the first ever for an Italian against a world number 1 in a Slam tournament since 1973, when the ATP ranking was introduced. The balance before Jannik: 23-0 for the others. Sinner had already beaten Nole last year (on two occasions, ATP Finals and Davis Cup), but he had also done it with Alcaraz when the Spaniard was at the top of the ATP ranking, in April 2023: he thus became the first Italian to beat two different number 1s in the world, moreover in the same year. And only Nadal, counting since 1973, has a better record than us in the first six career matches against career number 1s: the Spaniard has won five times, Jannik four.

And who best embodies in the history of tennis, even just ideally, the role of number 1 in the world? The current one: Novak Djokovic , who has occupied the position more than anyone else (409 weeks, a hundred more than Federer) and who has celebrated eight different New Year’s Eves looking down on everyone in the rankings (two more than Sampras, but we bet that Djokovic’s New Years are more fun). Good: the way in which Sinner has crushed Nole in the last matches – it’s still the old Nole, the one who competes in his own right and who aims to win 180 Slams – we haven’t seen anyone do it since Djokovic was Djokovic (perhaps Nadal , but only on clay. And anyway we were joking about the 180 Slam, we know he aims to win double that).

Sinner has won three of the last four matches against Djokovic, not counting Davis’ double, also the one won by the Italian. If the first success, at the ATP Finals, came at the end of a very tight match, played practically on equal terms, and was then avenged by a one-sided final in favor of the Serbian, the other two matches represent anomalies. Davis’ singles, when Djokovic was now certain of his Serbia’s final: Sinner canceled out three consecutive match points, and it had never been seen before. In Australia, however, ours defeated the Serbian after 2195 days of unbeaten: in Melbourne Nole had not lost since 2018 and had won all of his last 33 matches. Not only that: Sinner was the first tennis player not to grant even a break point to Djokovic in all his Slam tournament matches.

The first Italian to win the NextGen ATP Finals (and other precocity records)

The whole of Italy discovered this boy’s talent in 2019, when he played and won – despite being the number eight seed, i.e. the one with the lowest ranking – the NextGen ATP Finals, the tournament reserved for the best under 21s in the world . Sinner was 18 years old, he was by far the youngest of the eight participants (among them there were also those who were three full years older than us) but in the end it was he who won the tournament – moreover, in Milan, in that happy situation who wanted tennis to get along with Italy again. He was the first – and currently only – Italian to win the tournament, crowning an incredible year: in 2019 he climbed 473 positions in the ranking, going from number 551 to number 78.

While the whole country began to become curious about this reddish-haired teenager, Jannik’s tennis grew in the name of what his triumph at the NextGen implied: Sinner was made to overturn the predictions and rewrite the Italian records of precocity. From then on the South Tyrolean would become, in chronological order, the youngest Italian in the Open era to: reach a semi-final in an ATP tournament (18 years and two months); enter the top 100 (18 years, two months, 13 days); win an Australian Open match (18 years, five months, 16 days); reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament (19 years, 1 month and 19 days); win an ATP title (19 years, 2 months and 29 days); reach the final of a Masters 1000 (19 years, 7 months and 17 days); win an ATP Finals match (20 years, three months); win 100 ATP matches (20 years, 8 months, 19 days); reach the semifinal of a Slam (21 years, 10 months, 29 days); enter the top 5 of the ranking (22 years, 1 month, 17 days); reach the final of a Slam (22 years, 5 months, 12 days).

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