Jannik Sinner, the all-schuss Italian

Jannik Sinner and his fluorescent shorts, a tribute from his teammate to Andre Agassi, during his third round against the Argentinian Federico Coria, Friday, October 2 at Roland Garros.

Do not look in Jannik Sinner for traces of a Latin temperament to which the Italian tennis players had rather accustomed us in recent years. The young man with the red hair drops all the clichés that are generally associated with them. He was born in the mountains, in San Candido, in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige (northeast of the country).

At 19, Sinner (to be pronounced in the Austrian style) is the discreet youngest of an Italian armada which shines again on the circuit, after a generational gap. Sunday, October 4, he faces for a place in the quarter-finals the German Alexander Zverev, who got rid of his compatriot Marco Cecchinato (28) in the previous round, a surprise semi-finalist in 2018 at “Roland”.

Read also Roland-Garros: Marco Cecchinato in the semi-final, who would have bet?

Lorenzo Sonego (25), quarter-finalist in Monte-Carlo last season, also reached the round of 16. But not Matteo Berrettini (24), semi-finalist of the US Open 2019, who was surprised on Saturday by the 186e world, the German Daniel Altmaier, only the 4e in twenty years to complete three laps for his first participation in Grand Slam. Nor Stefano Travaglia (28), to whom King Nadal left only five games on Friday.

Five Italians at 3e lap of a Grand Slam, it was simply unheard of in the Open era and a first since 1955. “The current level of Italian tennis is very high, we have about ten players in the Top 100 [8, comme l’Espagne, contre 9 pour les Etats-Unis et 11 pour la France]. Why now ? I don’t know, but I think we are all pulling each other up “, Sinner said to World in February, before the forced shutdown of the circuit, pandemic obliges.

A jump of 500 places in the ranking in one year

Winner of David Goffin for his baptism at Roland Garros, the little genius of the Alps has offered himself the right to go to the second week, he who grew up on hard and not on earth like most of his compatriots. “Things are going faster than I imagined, he admits. Last year, especially, everything rushed. “

At the beginning of 2019, he won at home at the Challenger (the second division of tennis) in Bergamo, becoming, at 17, the youngest Italian to win a title in this category, before opting for the big circuit.. Nine months later, the rookie won the “Next Gen”, the Under-21 Tennis Masters. He thus completed a season which saw him gain nearly 500 places in a few months to become the youngest member of the current Top 100 (75e), whose dean, Roger Federer, his idol, could be his father (39).

As the well-behaved boy that he is, Sinner first pays homage to his trainer: “My results are the result of the rigorous work we have done over the past four years when I decided to be coached by Riccardo [Piatti, ancien entraîneur d’Ivan Ljubicic et de Novak Djokovic, qui possède une académie à Bordighera, en Ligurie]. With him, my tennis found more meaning ”, he tells, thin voice and flow inversely proportional to his strikes.

The slender young man (1.88 m, 76 kg) crosses the stages as fast as the poles between which he slalomed a few years ago in the mountains of South Tyrol, where he was national champion youngest giant in 2008, and vice-national champion in 2012. It was not until 13 years old that he decided to put away his skis to devote himself to tennis.

“Skiing lasts a minute and a half, the time of the race and that’s it, it’s way too short for me! explains this Bode Miller fan. I love to play and see the opponent, in skiing, you ski blind compared to your rivals. In tennis, you see if your opponent is frustrated or if he is happy… I find that funnier. “

“I was better at skiing than in tennis, but I have no regrets, at least not yet, he adds with a shy smile. These are two sports that have nothing to do with it. But maybe thanks to skiing, I have a bit more solid footwork, and that helps me with my balance and sliding. ” Surely also in the management of pressure, he who often remains unperturbed during his matches.

Reserved outside but opinionated on the court

France has been waiting for a successor to Yannick Noah since 1983, Italy is doing even better. Forty-four years since the last Italian Grand Slam winner, Adriano Panatta, won on Parisian clay…

Among women, Italian tennis has seen a golden generation embodied by Francesca Schiavone (winner at Roland in 2010) and Flavia Pennetta, winner of the 2015 US Open at the expense of her compatriot Roberta Vinci. But in men, Andreas Seppi (98e world) and Fabio Fognini, as talented as dissipated, have never joined the Italian legends of the 1970s, the Panatta, Pietrangeli and other Barazzutti.

Read also Davis Cup: Fabio Fognini or the art of pantomime

At 33, Fognini is still 15e world, but the body begins to wince. Operated on both ankles in June, he was eliminated at the Porte d’Auteuil entrance by the Kazakh Mikhaïl Kukushkin. The native of Sanremo gave up his number one status to Matteo Berrettini, number 7 seed at Roland, with a third row rugby physique (1.96m, 90kg).

Read also US Open: Matteo Berrettini, the Roman gladiator attacking Rafael Nadal

Jannik Sinner is the anti-Fognini, physically as well as in temperament, the first kind of the class, diligent and reserved. But on the court, he’s anything but passive: “I always try to win every game, and not just not lose, for me there is a nuance. We try to work on this enterprising side, to go more to the net, to better read the opponent’s game and to adapt ”, explains Sinner, who has remained in the shadows among the juniors, where he has not played a single Grand Slam.

“I never liked the junior circuit. In juniors, you win games because others lose it, while in Futures [la troisième division du tennis], you have to be mentally stronger, everything is a cut above. But to be a tennis player is to climb stairs, he develops. Between 500 and 100, I climbed them pretty fast, now maybe it’s going to take longer, I don’t know. “

“Physically, he still has to improve”, judges his next opponent, Alexander Zverev.

The pledge himself is aware that he has “A lot of things to learn before I can claim big titles, but in my head I feel ready”. From the tone of the sentence, we guess that he intends to continue to skip the steps.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here