Before the commencement of Wimbledon 2019, a total of 256 male and female players competed in the qualifying tournament held in Roehampton. In the initial round, 17-year-old Jannik Sinner made his debut in a grand slam qualifier, playing late into the evening on the lawn.
For the group of fans and players that stood on the narrow paths each side of the court, it was unforgettable. Sinner spent more than two and a half hours pulverising the ball, winners flying from all parts of the court as the purity of his ball-striking elicited gasps. But he also provoked a special performance from his journeyman opponent, Alex Bolt. It was an incredible match and the Australian barely hung on, winning 12-10 in the third set.
There has never been any doubt about Sinner’s shotmaking but as he competes in a grand slam final for the first time against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night, his evolution since that defeat is a consequence of his consistent growth, bold decisions and hard work.
At the age of 22, Sinner has transformed from solely being a skilled shooter to a well-rounded player. His agility and defensive abilities greatly contribute to his achievements. He has also focused on adding more diversity to his playing style and learning how to effectively finish matches. Although his strong return of serve has always been impressive, it has required significant dedication for his serve to become a formidable weapon in its own regard.
His path from being a precocious talent to a contender is also the result of smart decisions. In early 2022, despite just breaking into the top 10 for the first time, Sinner felt he needed a change. He split from Riccardo Piatti, a renowned figure in the game, and dissolved almost his entire support team. He has since taken on more responsibility, hiring Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill as his co-coaches.
Despite making significant progress last year, Sinner was unable to defeat Novak Djokovic in his first grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon. He also experienced a defeat in the fourth round of the US Open against Alexander Zverev. However, Sinner learned from these losses and continued to make progress.
The exceptional displays by Sinner in recent weeks can be attributed to his natural ability, development, and the knowledge he has gained. He has maintained a relentless pace, advancing to the semi-finals without losing a single set and dominating Djokovic on Friday. While he has undoubtedly performed at an elite level, Sunday’s match will bring new challenges and the pressure and anxiety that accompany them.
At the start of the competition, Medvedev expressed his desire to conduct himself in a more mature manner on the court, reducing the amount of time and effort he spends on unnecessary disputes with umpires or disruptive fans. The way in which he reached the final is proof of his shift in mindset and his ability to maintain a positive and focused attitude despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles.
Medvedev has persevered through three matches that went the full five sets, overcoming deficits of two sets against both Emil Ruusuvuori and Zverev. His victory over Terence Atmane in the first round and against Nuno Borges in the fourth were both played under intense heat. At 27 years old, he has spent a total of 20 hours and 33 minutes on the court, which is nearly six hours more than Sinner.
Instead of being inexperienced like the Italian, Medvedev will be competing in his sixth grand slam final and his third in Melbourne on Sunday. His record of 1-4 is mainly due to facing tough opponents like Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. However, this has also taught him how to deal with the stress and intensity of a major final. After all of his previous matches, the question remains if he will have the stamina to handle Sinner’s exceptional performance.