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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, February 13, 2020

Jannik Sinner

Wild card Jannik Sinner stunned David Goffin 7-6(7), 7-5 in Rotterdam showing the skills that prompt a former world No. 1 to call him a future Grand Slam champion.

Photo credit: @abnamrowtt

An old tennis adage states: what you don't know can hurt you.

Sometimes, what you do know can surprisingly sting too.

More: Bold Ideas to Grow the Game

Talented teenager Jannik Sinner applied his ferocious forehand—and familiarity with David Goffin's game—to topple the fourth-seeded Belgian 7-6(7), 7-5 and reach the Rotterdam quarterfinals vs. Pablo Carreno Busta

It was a milestone moment for the Italian wild card, who scored his first career Top 10 win against 2017 Rotterdam runner-up and sometime practice partner Goffin. 

Moving fluidly, showing a wide spectrum of shots and cracking his forehand with authority, Sinner struck 27 winners.

More impressively, Sinner held his own in running rallies against one of the game's cleanest ball strikers.

Showing shrewd court sense, the Italian exploited seven Goffin double faults and broke serve three times in a one hour, 59-minute triumph.

“I feel great," Sinner said. "I mean it was not easy playing against him. I know him because we practice sometimes together. Because [my coach] Riccardo [Piatti] and his coach are very good friends. Sometimes we practice in Monaco, sometimes we practice in Piatti Tennis Center.

"It was not easy. The match there were so many ups and downs. At the end, I tried to stay there. I tried to stay mentally strong, which I’ve done."

Coming off the first Grand Slam main-draw win of his career at the Australian Open last month, Sinner took a walkover from Radu Albot into the round of 16 and played proactive tennis on pivotal points for his first Top 10 win today.

Sinner's Rotterdam rise comes nearly four months to the day after he shocked top-seeded Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 powering to his biggest career win for a spot in his first ATP quarterfinal in Antwerp last October. Sinner, who bowed to Stan Wawrinka in the Antwerp semifinals, went on to win the Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan last November.

That break-out performance prompted Hall of Famer John McEnroe to tag Sinner as a future Top 5 player capable of winning multiple major crowns.

"[Sinner's] potential is to win numerous Grand Slams," McEnroe told the media in an ESPN conference call. "He's one of the most talented kids I've seen in 10 years. He's only 18, but he's got some pretty good size already, looks like he has a great head on his shoulders, and has an unbelievable upside.

"Of course he's going to have to deal with the fact that now all of a sudden he's going to be hunted a little bit himself and people are going to dig in a little bit more and not want to lose to an 18 year old. So he's going to have that to contend with. But I suspect in a few years you're going to see him in the top 10 of the game. Give him two or three years for sure, I believe."

For now, Sinner has more pressing concern playing for a Rotterdam semifinal spot against Carreno Busta, who squeezed past sixth-seeded Spanish Davis Cup teammate Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4) yesterday.

"It’s great," Sinner said of his Rotterdam debut. "First of all thanks for the wild card. Playing here on incredible center court the crowd is working well. I hope that I can play many more years here."

A red-hot Andrey Rublev continued his early-season tear. Rublev roared through five straight games from 4-5 down dispatching former junior rival Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-3 for his 13th victory in 14 matches this season.

The 15th-ranked Rublev permitted just six points on his first serve and did not face a break point in an 80-minute victory.

Rublev, who opened the season winning the Doha and Adelaide titles, will face either Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who upset top-seeded Daniil Medvedev yesterday, or Filip Krajinovic for a place in the final four.


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