Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Jannik Sinner: The Future of Men’s Tennis

Posted on 16 April 2021 by Ben Thompson

Jannik Sinner is the next big thing in men’s tennis. Currently ranked 22nd in the world, the unanimous opinion of those involved in the sport is that it is only a matter of time before the 19-year-old Italian will be at the very top of the game.

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Sinner has won the attention of tennis fans globally thanks to his meteoric rise and the remarkable results he has achieved at such a young age. He has won two ATP Tour tournaments in Sofia and Melbourne and the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. He has also defeated some of the best players today, including Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Roberto Bautista Agut.

Power allows him to dictate matches, with his consistent, explosive groundstrokes too much for many of his opponents to handle. Fellow player Alexander Bublik even jokingly asked Sinner whether he was human due to his high level of play despite his age during their match in Miami this year.

He has already signed a plethora of brand deals with Rolex, Lavazza and Alfa Romeo and recently even revealed his signature logo. It is clear that many, himself included, believe he could be the biggest name in tennis in the future.

Elite Mentality

Despite his incredible talent, his mental strength will be the most advantageous asset throughout his career. On the court, he is calm and collected. As well as being a fierce competitor, he is prioritising his long term goals over short term success.

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Sinner’s mature focus was evident after losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the final of the Miami Open.

“For me, improvement is the most important thing,” Sinner said, “I think I have to improve on every single part of my game physically, mentally, everything. Then we will see what’s coming.”

He has also compared the early stages of his career to a chef, attempting to illustrate the progress he still needs to make to dominate the sport.

Sinner said: “Compared to last year, I have improved enormously, but there’s so much to do. It’s as if I’m trying to become a chef: Now I’m peeling carrots and potatoes. But at least I’m in the kitchen. Last year I was outside the kitchen.”

If Sinner believes how he is playing now is him just entering the kitchen, it is hard to imagine how good he could be when he becomes a chef. But with the mentality and clear skills he possesses, it should not be a surprise that he has lofty career goals.

Can the Legends be Overthrown?

It will be fascinating to witness whether he or any of the other promising young talents in men’s tennis can play a role in finally toppling the long-lasting supremacy of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

While Federer has recently come back from a long-term injury and at the age of 39 is not likely to be as dominant, Djokovic and Nadal remain the ones to beat at major events, despite being 33 and 34-years-old respectively.

Out of the last 24 Grand Slam titles, 20 have been won by one of these three players, with 27-year-old Dominic Thiem the most recent champion outside of them, yet the Austrian did not have to defeat Djokovic, Nadal or Federer on his way to winning the US Open in 2020.

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Sinner has faced both Djokovic and Nadal once, losing in straight sets on both occasions. He gave Nadal, the ‘King of Clay’, an early scare at Roland Garros in 2020 and recently lost to Djokovic routinely, 6-4 6-2, in Monte-Carlo.

It is time for the next generation of men’s tennis players to make their mark, and Sinner seems to be the most likely to do so. Other young players, including Tsitsipas, 22 and Andrey Rublev, 23, are knocking on the door, but Sinner may be the first to burst through it.

In the women’s game, success among the young generation has been much more bountiful. Bianca Andreescu won the 2019 US Open at 19-years-old, and Iga Swiatek lifted the Roland Garros trophy in 2020 at the same age. Naomi Osaka is only 23, yet already has four Grand Slam titles to her name. Men’s tennis is different, where in the last ten years, the youngest player to win a Grand Slam was Marin Cilic when he was 24.

But can the Italian, or any of the other young talents in the sport, manage to eclipse the living legends before they retire, or will they have to wait their turn? Based on the rate of improvement in Sinner’s game during his short career so far, this seemingly impossible task is achievable.