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Sinner: Dancing in the Storm

Jannik Sinner’s parents, Adriano Panatta and Billie Jean King all inspired his maiden major.

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, January 28, 2024

Teetering on the ledge of loss down two sets to Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, Jannik Sinner wasn’t tripping out over his predicament.

Dancing in a major stress storm was right where he always hoped to be.

More: Richard Evans Q&A

The 22-year-old Sinner roared back from a two-set deficit defeating Medvedev 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to capture his maiden major championship in a pulsating AO comeback.

The fourth-seeded Sinner is the first Italian singles player to win the Australian Open. He is the first Italian man in 48 years to capture a major championship following in the footsteps of legendary Adriano Panatta, the 1976 Roland Garros champion.

Three primary keys to Sinner’s comeback conquest: 

*Faced with a huge hole in his maiden major final, Sinner did not press the panic button. He was fueled by the fact Medvedev had spent nearly six hours longer on court en route to the final and knew the 6’6″ Russian’s tank would eventually empty.

*In a positional adjustment, Sinner backed up a bit further behind the baseline to return Medvedev’s first serve and put more returns back in play as the three-time finalist began to tire.

*Poise under pressure. Sinner scored his 10th victory in his last 11 matches vs. Top 5 opponents not simply because he’s a pristine, powerful ball striker, but because he’s a much more polished match player know, who made shrewd shot selections and player powerful, but high percentage tennis in the decider.

In his post-match presser, Sinner twice quoted Billie Jean King’s famed mantra “pressure is a privilege,” which is also the title of her book. 

“There is always pressure, but the pressure is something good. You have to take it in a good way. It’s a privilege, no?” Sinner said. “Because there are not so many players who have this kind of pressure, but in the other way, when you have pressure, it’s always, okay, he believes that I can really do it.”

“So yes, I like to dance in the pressure storm. I don’t know how to tell. Like me personally, I like it, because that’s where most of the time I bring out my best tennis. I’m also quite relaxed in this occasion, because I always try to enjoy on the court.

“So I think pressure is a privilege, to be honest.”

Remaining calm and committed to finishing the job amid the chaotic storm is a quality Sinner learned from his parents.

Sinner combines superstar skill with a working-class ethos that comes from his parents. His father, Johann Sinner, is a chef in a restaurant and his mother, Siglinde Sinner, is a hostess at the restaurant. Sinner credits his parents for instilling that daily drive for self improvement in him.

Afterward, Jannik thanked the mother and father he calls “perfect parents” for encouraging him—but not pressuring him—to forsake skiing for tennis and pursue his dreams of chasing a Grand Slam championship.

“I went away from home when I was 14 years old. So I had to grow up quite fast, trying to cook for myself, trying to make laundry,” said Sinner, a former junior ski champion who gave up going downhill fast to try to scale the Grand Slam summit on court. “You know, the first times it is different, you know, but then in the other way, that was maybe the fastest way to grow up.

“I think for me was tough, but for the parents to leave their son with 14 years old, it’s also not easy. They always gave me, they never put pressure on myself, which for me is maybe the key why I’m here today. I’m a very quite relaxed man, who just enjoys to play tennis. I’m 22 years old, so I also enjoy to do normal stuff.

“And that’s it. They are the perfect parents. Obviously I know only them (smiling) but they are awesome. And also my brother, he brings me honesty throughout the whole career I’m going through.”


A post shared by Jannik Sinner (@janniksin)

Staring down that two-set deficit, Sinner heard the cheers from Italian fans famished for their first male Grand Slam champion in nearly a half-century.

Ultimately, Sinner summoned the fighter within to score the biggest victory of his young career.

“The crowd, that’s the reason why you play in one way, because when the stadium is packed, 15,000 people, they are cheering for you or for your opponent.

“It’s an amazing feeling just to go on court. Then obviously when you’re in tough situation, you want to make a good match also.

“Like today, I was going so fast, I was two sets to love down, but all the people who came there to watch, I was, like, I have to at least trying to make it a match somehow, and that was today’s case.”

Sinner fought to give Rod Laver Arena fans, which included Rocket Rod himself, a match and in the end gave them captivating comeback to remember.

Photo credit: Shi Tang/Getty

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