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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, November 12, 2023


Jannik Sinner won 32 of 36 first-serve points sweeping Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4, in his round-robin opener at the ATP Finals.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Managing the court masterfully, Jannik Sinner was committed to clean up.

When he wasn't busy wiping his opponent into obscure areas, the 22-year-old Italian took a towel to the blue baseline to soak up the sweat collecting on court.

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Turning Turin homecoming into precise housekeeping, Sinner swept Stefanos Tsitsipas away 6-4, 6-4 in a confident ATP Finals round-robin opener.

"The atmosphere was really, really nice. It's huge pleasure for me to play here in Turin, in Italy," Sinner told the media in Turin. "Obviously a little bit more pressure, but I managed it really well today, so I'm happy. The performance was great, which is the most important thing. Very happy about today."

Playing powerful combinations, Sinner controlled the baseline breaking down Tsitsipas’ backhand wing on critical points and cleaning lines at times.

“It was not that easy. Obviously I have to be very concentrated about what I have to do, very focused,” Sinner told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I played throughout the whole year a very high level of tennis and I tried to do the same treating the tournament in the same way.

“Obviously, it’s going to be different because you play against only the best eight players in the world. I’m very honored to be here. And I think the mix of being happy, pressure, organization, everything is really really important and that’s what I’ve done today.”

Working with coaches Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill to strengthen his second serve, Sinner’s improved second delivery is empowering him to do more damage on first serve.

Today, Sinner served up a near shutout on first serve. Sinner served 71 percent, pumped nine aces against two double faults and won 32 of 36 first-serve points without facing a single break point.

“I always feel like I have improved a lot throughout the whole year and serving is really important,” Sinner told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj. “I think for me a little bit of game changer was Vienna where I served twice over 80 percent. You get this feeling and you want to have the feeling over and over again.

“Obviously, it's so important how many points you win with the first serve. Today, I felt like every time when I played with the first serve I win a lot of points. You have to be very focused about everything so I’m happy.”

Frequently stepping into the court to fire his forehand with menacing intent, Sinner smacked five more winners—22 to 17—than Tsitsipas defeating the Greek for the second time in three meetings this season. Overall, Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head series 5-3 and sees improvement in Sinner.

"He definitely has improved his serve, and he showed it today on the court," Tsitsipas said of Sinner. "There wasn't much I could do. I was trying to guess sometimes. He serves really close to the lines, to the corners.

"I'm not the Elastic Girl from the superheroes to be behind these balls. I tried my best, and he played a very good quality match from his side.

"I think today, maybe if he was aiming for improvements, today those improvements were definitely exposed and shown on the court. He definitely had overall a big improvement in his game."

When conditions are calm, Sinner is a chaos creator. Sinner improved to 14-1 indoors this year taking the early lead in a loaded Green Group. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces 2022 Paris champion Holger Rune in today’s second Green Group round-robin match.

Last week in Paris, Sinner fought off Mackenzie McDonald in a three-set battle that ended at 2:37 a.m. local time. When Rolex Paris Masters organizers made the mind-boggling decision to schedule Sinner’s next match during the day session of the same day, he withdrew citing fatigue.

A recharged Sinner received a hero’s welcome from home fans as he walked on court today and immediately imposed his first-strike attack.

Today’s first round-robin match pitted two of the heaviest forehands on Tour.

In the fifth game, Sinner unleashed biting forehands to bang out the opening break. Spinning a forehand winner down the line, Sinner rattled out a forehand error to get to love-30. When Tsitsipas’ backhand crashed into the tape, Sinner had the break and a 3-2 lead.

Twenty-one minutes into the match, Sinner slashed his third ace out wide stretching his lead to 4-2 after 16 minutes.

Authoritative Sinner serving gave Tsitsipas little room to operate. Sinner slammed his fifth ace down the middle capping a love hold for 5-3. The Italian won 16 of his first 19 serve points.

Pushed to deuce for the first time, Sinner slammed a serve winner down the T and closed the 39-minute opening set whipping the wide serve. Sinner served 70 percent, pumping five aces without hitting a double fault to build that one-set lead.

Stepping into the court, Sinner was testing Tsitsipas’ one hander with some crackling diagonal forehands. Drawing an errant backhand brought Sinner to break point to start the second set.

Fine-tuning that formula, Sinner sent a barrage of inside-out forehands into the Tsitsipas one-handed backhand. The Australian Open finalist repelled several, but netted a slice backhand as Sinner broke for a one-set, one-break lead.

Italian fans erupted in roars as Sinner sped through six straight points—lasering his sixth ace and looping a clever lob winner—backing up the break with a love hold for 2-0.

Fifty-five minutes into the match, Tsitsipas confronted triple break point danger and did not blink. The Greek worked his way forward blocking a fine forehand volley to save the third break point. Tsitsipas scalded successive aces completing a great escape from love-40 down holding for 1-2.

The 2019 ATP Finals champion strapped down his service winning eight of his next nine serve points, pounding down an ace to close to 3-4.

Contesting his fifth consecutive ATP Finals, Tsitsipas needed to drag Sinner off the baseline, apply his transition skills and make this an all-court match.

While you can question Tsitsipas’ tactical choices, credit Sinner for sustained first-strike tennis that gave his opponent almost no breathing room on return.

Sinner slammed down his eighth ace—including his third point-ending ace of the match—extending to 6-4, 5-3.

Delighting home fans, including a group of young fans dressed in carrot costumes, Sinner served out a clean 75-minute conquest at 15.


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