Jannik, what are you hiding behind your winning moves? Arrived on the circuit in 2018, the current 11th player in the world is finally starting to make a name for himself among the general public, especially when it comes to playing his second career grand final in Miami against Daniil Medvedev this Sunday (7:00 p.m.). But, it is indisputable, there remains a small part of mystery about this potential champion, whose career management and seriousness are well established.
Character a little closed, very tennis-tennis on a daily basis, follower of rather academic press conferences, the Italian with the air of the top of the class still lacks presence in the sidelines of his life as an athlete, where others like Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune or Stefanos Tsitsipas succeeded in this transition. We tried to scratch the Sinner bodywork a bit to try to better understand who is supposed to take over from Nicola Pietrangeli and Adriano Panatta in Italy.
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Jannik Sinner is from the autonomous province of Bolzano, located north of La Botte. Its name does not deceive anyone: Sinner is attached to two cultures. Obviously, Italy, his country, but also his native land, he who was born in San Candido. As a good native of the Dolomites, Sinner has a name that sounds Austria and alpine skiing is an almost obligatory passage there. Dominik Paris (Merano), Christoph Innerhofer (Brunico), names you hear every winter on Eurosport, are also from the area.
Like many of his fellow tennis players, Sinner was quickly placed in the gifted category for the sport. And like many, he had to make a choice. Very gifted in skiing, Sinner practiced it in competition from eight to twelve years old. Before realizing that the rest would be difficult for him. “Tennis was only my third sport when I was young. I also played football. Skiing was my priority, then football. But I started to stop football little by little because it was too much for me“, he told the ATP last year. So I continued skiing and tennis. I liked football because I could be with my friends, but I found them on the ski slopes because we trained together.”
Too thin, too slender (he measures 1.88m), Sinner quickly understood that he did not have the morphology to go higher on the spatulas. “I felt that the others were more powerful. I also fell (heavily) twice and never felt comfortable again. On some falls, I kept sliding and couldn’t stop. Sometimes you’re scared because you don’t know where you’re going to end up.” If he refuses to evoke fear for his decision, Sinner explains that there were too many risks to continue skiing. So he went to tennis, a sport he practiced, but in a more recreational way than anything else . “I liked playing it because all the cards were on my side, I had control over myself, which in skiing is very difficult.“
Sinner did not stop skiing despite his status as a professional player. For example, he skied with Lindsey Vonn last October as part of a joint project. Every winter, he continues to practice it at home, but of course with caution. He readily admits it, he likes speed and adrenaline, but he is careful. “The only thing I’m afraid of are snakes and horror movies!“
The head before the rest
Jannik Sinner is not a very expansive person. So, yes, he celebrates his victories, but on the side of anger you have to count them on the fingers of one hand. For broken snowshoes, move on, there is nothing left to see! He has in fact this somewhat icy character at times, but this tranquility is his strength. His leitmotif: always be focused on his goal. Where does he get this attitude that puts him at odds with his compatriot Fabio Fognini?
“Everyone has their own style whether on or off the court. I got this character trait from my parents. They work every day, they have a job that can be called modest (Jannik’s father is a cook and his mother is a restaurant manager, the two work together, editor’s note). They know what it’s like to work hard. They gave me that mindset. Always giving your best while working and not losing energy along the way.”
Coming very late to tennis, Sinner has made his unfailing seriousness the exclusive engine of his success. Recording machine, he likes to take the positive side of defeats to keep moving forward. Having lag times behind other members of the new generation is not a problem for him, he who was ranked at best in 9th place in the ATP rankings. “For me, progress is the most important thing“, he often thunders after his matches.
Very active for his country during the Covid 19 pandemic – he had raised funds for the health sector – Sinner made his brain the key to his success. Two years ago, he openly mentioned the mental problems of athletes, a subject that remains taboo. “My mental health is important“, he confessed when he left confinement, a period that marked him enormously. “Many don’t talk about it, but I need to talk about it. I had a hard time, I missed hitting the ball.“
Sinner after his victory against Alcaraz: “This success means a lot”
He parted ways with Riccardo Piatti to… progress
It was information that had surprised the small world of tennis. In February 2022, at the end of a passable Australian Open in terms of play, Jannik Sinner then took the most radical decision of his early career, namely ending the collaboration with his mentor, a certain Riccardo Piatti. A crime of lèse-majesté. On the Bordighera side, where the super coach academy is located, Sinner has become who he should be. He admits it himself: without Piatti, everything would have been different. When he decided to quit skiing to succeed in tennis, very late, at 13 and a half, Sinner himself took the step of going to see Piatti to live a life 100% dedicated to the yellow ball.
Creator of champions in front of the eternal, the Transalpine, who had Ivan Ljubicic, Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic, Borna Coric and many others under his thumb, took a nice slap in the face. For Sinner, however, it was the best solution to turn a corner. Kill the father somehow, to exist. “I was brave, others might not have opted for such a drastic change, but I am confident that I will manage to find the balance“, he commented in Rome, last year. For his part, Piatti knows that he has put a champion on the rails. Last February, he estimated that his former colt was the Italian best placed to win a Grand Slam, with Matteo Berrettini (at Wimbledon for the latter).
Now coached by Simone Vagnozzi for the year, Sinner replaced Piatti with a certain Darren Cahill, another great coach, ex-mentor of Andre Agassi and Simona Halep, before playing Wimbledon. With the Australian, Sinner has set up a development site for his game to compete with the best players, like his new rival, Carlos Alcaraz. Sinner had repeated it a lot during the 2022 exercise: he had to change a lot of things on the technical level, he who defines himself as a “dominant” baseline player.
Regularity of his first ball, second balls too imprecise, lack of variety (slice, net game): the site was bigger than observers could think. “Thethe most important thing with great players is that you have to keep improving the strengths. Jannik moves incredibly well. So we work a lot on this aspect. It’s good to see that he’s open to trying new things and improving, while not straying too far from the type of player he is.” analyzed Cahill recently in an interview with La Repubblica.
Proof of his progress, Sinner can boast of having already reached the quarter-finals of the four Grand Slam tournaments. A performance not so ordinary. With the exception of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, only Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic and Matteo Berrettini have achieved such a performance in the current top 30 in the ATP rankings. Neither Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Félix Auger-Aliassime ticked these four boxes despite being ahead of the Transalpin on many points. In short, Sinner is square, it’s all-terrain. It’s solid.
Jannik Sinner (Miami Open 2023)
Credit: Getty Images
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