Australian Open: Who is Jannik Sinner, conqueror of Novak Djokovic?
The 22-year-old has now beaten the GOAT in all their past three meetings, but the Italian job is not yet over
There has to be a kind of irreverent quality in wannabe champions if they want to make a match against legends like a Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. Jannik Sinner, the 22-year-old Italian, had given enough warning signals in his last two meetings with Djoko — but it was still difficult to bet against the Serb in a grand slam semi-final, particularly with him looking for a calendar grand slam at this stage of his career..
It was not without reason that the world no.1 had won the Australian Open a record 10 times, not to speak of a 33-match winning streak on the hard courts of Melbourne. Yet, the biggest coup of the tournament came in the first men’s semi-final when the precocious world no. 4 stunned the GOAT in four sets in a way that sports headline writers can only think of one cliché tonight: Italian job.
“When I play against him, it’s obvious right before that it’s a tough match,” reflected a nonchalant Sinner at his post-match press conference. “But a Grand Slam is different. It was a tough match, especially when I lost the third set with a match-point. I just tried to stay as positive as possible, and it went my way today. I’m really happy,’’ added Sinner, who is now in line to be the first Italian player, male or female, to win the year’s opening slam, provided he can overcome Daniil Medvedev in the final.
Medvedev, of course, set up one of his incredible comebacks to beat Alexander Zverev 5-7 3-6 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 in an epic semi-final following the Sinner-Djoko clash, and holds the tournament record of 245 winners. In second place, Jannik Sinner with 197. Just a little subset there.
On the last two occasions that they met in November 2023, Sinner first accounted for Djokovic in three sets in the Nitto ATP Finals and then the Davis Cup finals. It was, in the words of the Italian, a "huge privilege" to get some valuable match practice against Djokovic.
"I feel like this for sure helped me in one way, but in the other way, it’s as I said before, a Grand Slam is also mentally different. I just tried to play also as relaxed as possible, but also have the right game plan in my mind. I think today it worked really well.”
The way Sinner retained his composure at the Rod Laver Arena after losing a third set tie-break in which he held match point at 6/5, spoke about his resilience. The Italian, incidentally, led Djokovic by two sets to nil in the 2022 Wimbledon quarter-finals before falling to his senior, and he was delighted with the way he held his nerve after a mid-match setback this time around.
Sinner's muted celebrations after dismantling the holder of 24 grand slams did not go unnoticed, but then he said the job was not over yet. ‘’Sunday is a final. It’s different emotions because the final is always different. It doesn't really matter how big the tournament is. In my mind today I knew it was a semi-final. It's not that you win the tournament like this.
‘’So I’m looking forward to Sunday, and let’s see what’s coming,’’ he added. Last year, it was Carlos Alcaraz who outlasted Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. This time, it’s Sinner in the Australian Open semi-final. It seems that the wait for Gen Next champions is finally over.