Jannik Sinner has shown signs – in fact more than signs – to suggest he has the makings of a Grand Slam champion.
But despite a consistent presence in the second week of majors – and countless displays of his elite top level – the Italian is yet to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.
As a teenager in 2020 and 2021, Sinner leapt into the tennis spotlight – breaking a series of records and sitting on graphics alongside Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
He became: the youngest ATP 500 champion on record, the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since Nadal, and the youngest man to reach the quarterfinals of all four majors since Djokovic.
And yet over the past twelve months – particularly with the breakout of Carlos Alcaraz – Sinner’s career has plateaued.
The now 21-year-old ceased another opportunity last week, losing the Rotterdam final to Daniil Medvedev after taking a one-set lead.
It’s now a fifth career loss to the Russian – without a win – and is just one of multiple key matchups in which Sinner has struggled.
And while a finals loss to one of the world’s best players is far from disappointing for a 21-year-old, it just feels – at least to me – that Sinner’s game warrants more.
Having sat inside Rod Laver Arena for the Italian’s fourth round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas at last month’s Australian Open, it’s clear that 2019 Next Gen champion has what it takes.
The contest was the highest quality encounter that I witnessed in January and was another case of Sinner playing well enough to win and yet failing to cease the opportunity.
It marks the third consecutive major where the Italian has bowed out in a five-setter, after suffering similar defeats in both London and New York.
Sinner was the only man to take Djokovic to a deciding set en route to his 2022 Wimbledon title – losing from two sets to love up in what ultimately became a wide-open men’s draw.
Just two months later, an epic US Open quarterfinal with eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz saw the 21-year-old let a match point slip – and with it, his best chance to date of claiming a major title.
However, amid a series of disappointing defeats on the biggest stage, Sinner has become clinical in the early stages of Slams and boasts a dominant record against all but the best.
In his last 26 completed Grand Slam matches, Sinner is 21-0 vs players ranked outside the ATP top 5 and 0-5 vs those ranked inside the top 5.
But simply put; to be the best, one must beat the best and Sinner needs to break his dry spell against those at the pinnacle of the sport, to bring a men’s major title to Italy.
It’s coming up on 50 years since the Masters 1000 host (Rome) saw its last men’s Grand Slam champion – when Adriano Panatta took out the 1976 French Open.
While Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi paved the way this century, the task has fallen to the current generation led by Sinner, Matteo Berrettini, and Lorenzo Musetti – with a handful more on the rise.
And despite Berrettini being the sole Italian man since Panatta to reach a major final, I feel that Sinner holds the best chance of winning one.
The 21-year-old has all the weapons to lift more than one Grand Slam – and I believe once he breaks the quarterfinal hoodoo, the floodgates will open for Sinner to become a multiple-time major champion.