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MENTAL BREAKTHROUGH: IS IT FINALLY SINNER'S TIME?



Training in the Italian Alps amongst the mountains almost became second nature to a young athlete in the name of Jannik Sinner. Skiing took centre stage before anything, including tennis and picking up a racquet.


It was only when he turned 13 that tennis was suddenly taken more seriously to exploit a glaring talent.


The academy of Riccardo Piatti (former coach of Novak Djokovic) welcomed Sinner with open arms in an attempt to nurture and develop a raw teenager with ample potential.


Piatti, who watched Sinner compete in a tournament in Milan, admitted that he was impressed by his determination to take the initiative and produce an offensive game style that is rare to come by in the modern game.


“He was close to the baseline, hit the ball fast, hit the ball to win the points,” Piatti said of Sinner. “It’s not normal to see players under 13, 14, similar to that.”


Watching him progress throughout the years, it’s clear that Skiing has had a major influence on Sinner’s game to help him glide around the court with ease.


From the moment he won his first ATP Challenger title in February 2019, there were murmurs in the tennis world that this player was primed to be the next big thing.


Don’t let your eyes fool you. Although appearing to be skinny and raw-boned from the outside, the sheer power that Sinner can generate on his own is simply astonishing.


Now, the Italian has reached a career-high No.4 in the world and playing the best tennis of his career. But it hasn’t resulted without its bumps along the way.


Consistency has always been a lingering issue for the 22-year-old. In the big moments against the very elite, Sinner would come up short more often than not.


In the middle of 2022, Australian coach Darren Cahill was announced as Sinner’s new coach to guide him through the next phase of his development, knowing that growth pains would be part of the process.


Before Wimbledon last year, Sinner reached four Grand Slam quarter-finals without finding a way to progress one step further. Albeit a favourable draw, he broke that drought at the All-England Club.


Confidence is everything in tennis, and achieving that small milestone built the belief in Sinner that he could now begin to consistently beat the top 10 players he once struggled to break down.


Since July, his win-loss record stands at 31-4 including three titles and a Davis Cup crown along the way.


During that run, he toppled Daniil Medvedev three times after losing the first six head-to-head clashes, while also beating Carlos Alcaraz, Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune, Stefanos Tsitsipas, as well as Novak Djokovic twice in 10 days.


Perhaps the decision to sit out of competitive lead-in events before the year’s first Grand Slam has done his body a favour.


Physically, Sinner looks better than ever before, as he remains the only man left standing not to drop a set at the 2024 Australian Open.


However, it’s the mental side of his game that has placed the Italian in this position of frightening form. No longer is Sinner making reckless decisions in the big moments, instead he’s more tactically adaptable whether it be against a big server like Karen Khachanov in the fourth round or a quality returner like Sebastian Baez in the previous round, he now has strategic responses up his sleeve to combat his obvious skill set.


When The First Serve asked Sinner about his confidence levels after a brilliant back-end of 2023, he admitted that it’s provided a boost in belief.


“I try to stay focused, calm, and enjoy every moment on and off the court,” Said the two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist. “I do feel confident. I came here with a good off-season [and] preparation. Obviously the two matches in Kooyong helped me a little bit to get into a match rhythm.”


He’s also a likeable character who carries a sense of humbleness and levelheadedness that has translated onto the court. The Italian media have fallen in love with him - now seen in commercials and front pages of the biggest newspapers in the country.


With a lethal serve that’s popping on the fast-paced courts at Melbourne Park, a ripping forehand, and an all-round game, Sinner has never been more mentally ready to win a Grand Slam.


A combination of possessing the right support group, a respectful personality, and a wicked talent has placed the former Next Gen Finals winner in the conversation to break Novak Djokovic’s dominance down under.


The Serbian could await him in the semi-finals, but Sinner will need to overcome the hard-hitting Andrey Rublev to start dreaming big.


Sinner’s time may have just finally arrived

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