The Italian is just 19 years old, he entered the third round to face Federico Coria and is one of the greatest promises in world sport. But tennis was not always his priority.
Federico Coria grew up in the tennis environment, following in the footsteps of his brother Guillermo, former world number three, and he had to work hard and for many years to make his own way on the professional circuit. Today, at 28 years old, the Rosario is enjoying his best moment: he is 99th in the world ranking (in the next list he will have the best position of his career, in the top 90) and this Wednesday he celebrated his most important victory, against the French Benoit Pair, which allowed him to get into the third round at Roland Garros. Very different is the story of his next rival in Paris: the Italian Jannik Sinner, who at just 19 years old (he is the youngest in the French Grand Slam team) is already the 75th in the world and is considered one of the best exponents of the new generation; despite the fact that until six years ago, the racket was not his priority.
Sinner (whose surname means “sinner” in English) was born on August 16, 2001 in Innichen, a town located in the Puster Valley, in the middle of the Italian Alps, on the border with Austria. The city is one of the most famous ski resorts in Italy and little Jannik learned to practice this sport at a very young age. He even became national slalom champion in 2008 and runner-up in 2012. But his father Johann loved tennis and at the age of three he put a racket in his hand for the first time.
Jannik enjoyed the rallies and kept practicing once or twice a week; but he was far from dedicating himself completely to this discipline. Before, he preferred to get on skis or hang out with his friends to play soccer. What’s more: when he was seven years old, he went twelve months without touching a racket. However, at 13, he decided to change course.
“I am a very normal boy who grew up in the mountains and loves winter sports, but they were too risky for me, that’s why I opted for tennis,” he said.
Owner of a natural talent to hit the yellow ball, he had no problems finding his place. In 2014 he settled in the academy that Riccardo Piatti has in Bordighera. Under the tutelage of the renowned coach -who knew how to collaborate with great stars like Novak Djokovic, Ivan Ljubicic, Richard Gasquet, Milos Raonic and Garbiñe Muguruza- his tennis took a quality leap.
“I remember when I got to the academy, I saw Riccardo following one of my training sessions and he was very excited to see me play. There were many coaches who saw me and said ‘Ok this guy is good’. This helped me a lot to focus on tennis. “
That late start meant that Sinner did not follow the same path that the vast majority of players usually walk during their junior years. The Italian, for example, has never played the major ITF tournaments of that category, including the Grand Slam. He decided to focus directly on professional competitions: he played Futures since he was 15 years old and it did not take long to make the leap to the Challengers.
“I always wanted to compete at a higher level than my age. My team saw that I had the level to play with players better than me and they let me do what I wanted. Today I am 18 years old and I am playing the main draw of the US Open “, he had told in August 2019, in the preview of his absolute debut in a Grand Slam.
Before that contest, he had already shown his talent. In April she had reached the round of 16 in Budapest, her first ATP tournament. After passing through New York, where he overcame qualifying and then lost in the first round to Stan Wawrinka, he reached the semifinals at the ATP 250 in Antwerp, where he also lost to the Swiss.
And at the beginning of November it gave its first blow of effect. He entered the NextGen Masters in Milan as a guest and ended up lifting the trophy by beating Australian Alex De Miñaur, at the time located in the 18th step of the classification.
Those great performances, added in addition to his five consecrations in six finals on the challenger circuit, allowed him to finish the year in the 78th step of the ranking. He had started it in 553rd place.
Right-handed and with a two-handed backhand -one of the most top spin he has on the circuit-, he is very aggressive on the court and tends to dominate the points and impose his game, without waiting for the error of his rival. And although he is 1.88 meters tall, he can easily move around the entire court. His tennis surprised even Roger Federer, one of his childhood idols, who said: “What I like about him is that he almost has the same speed of shooting from the forehand and backhand.”
In this 2020 he reached the second round at the Australian Open and reaped his best result, so far, in February, before the stoppage due to coronavirus, in the ATP 500 in Rotterdam, where he reached the quarterfinals and lost with the Spanish Pablo Carreño Busta. After that result, she reached 68th place in the ranking, her best position.
During the stoppage, he helped raise funds for the fight against the coronavirus in Italy. Together with StarWing Sports, the company that represents him, and Piatti, he donated 12,500 euros to a humanitarian organization that helps with health emergencies in Bergamo. And, pizza lover, created the #SinnerPizzaChallenge and he promised to contribute 10 euros for each photo he received of a pizza that looked like him or any past or present Italian figure.
“The unity in Italy throughout this crisis has been incredible and it is what will help us get through this period. I want to do my part, as much as I can,” he said.
At the restart of the season in New York, it did not go quite well. Lost in debut in the Masters 1000 de Cincinnati and in his second presentation at the US Open. He then reached the eighth in Kitzbühel and the same time in Rome, where he achieved a resounding victory in the second round against the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, number six in the world.