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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday November 28, 2023

Jannik Sinner

Jannik Sinner will riding the crest of a wave into the 2024 season...

Photo Source: Matthew Calvis

Jannik Sinner capped an incredible 2023 season with one of the greatest achievements in tennis: winning the Davis Cup for Italy. The Italians had gone nearly 50 years without challenging for the crown of the sports’ most prestigious international team competition, but Sinner took his mates on his shoulders and drove them to victory.

Tennis Express

It was a stunning performance from the carrot-topped Italian, who saved three match points against Novak Djokovic in his nation’s semifinal tie with Serbia to keep the Italians alive, and later teamed with Lorenzo Sonego to defeat Djokovic and Kecmanovic to send Italy to the final.

In the final, Sinner viciously tamed the Demon Alex de Minaur as he dropped a mere three games in a jaw-dropping Davis Cup clinching effort.

The 22-year-old has come a long way since January, when he started the season at 15 in the world, then dropped to 17 by early February. That low ranking would not last, as Sinner returned to the Top-10 in April after going 9-2 at Indian Wells (semifinal loss to Alcaraz) and Miami (final loss to Medvedev). The rising talent continued to rise this summer, making his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon (loss to Djokovic in the semifinals) and winning his maiden Masters 1000 title at Toronto.

Top 5 and Hero Status

Though he was disappointingly sent packing from the US Open by Alexander Zverev in the round of 16, Sinner didn’t let the loss linger. Instead he finished the season on an incredible run, winning 20 of his final 22 matches, claiming titles in Beijing and Vienna, in addition to reaching the final at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The run catapults Sinner to a year-end ranking of No.4 and he is the first Italian man to rank that high in Open Era history. He’s also the first Italian to win 60 or more matches in a single season.

More important, Sinner’s still very much at the beginning of his rise.

What will Sinner look like after an offseason spent perfecting his serve and adding muscle to his wiry frame alongside his team, which is led by world-class coach Darren Cahill? Now that he has proven himself against elite competition, by winning nine of his last ten matches against the Top-10 and earning his first two wins over Novak Djokovic, will Sinner take flight and start making a play for Grand Slam titles and the No.1 ranking?

Most everybody thinks yes...

Alex de Minaur, distraught after falling to Sinner in Sunday’s Davis Cup final, admitted that there wasn’t much he could do against Sinner’s revved-up power game.

“Jannik is riding this amazing wave of confidence,” he said. “He's playing in indoor conditions with some heavy balls where he can hit the absolute crap out of the ball. He's seriously impressive, the level he's showing.”

Djokovic had numerous chances to defeat Sinner in the third set of their match in the semifinals, and the 24-time Slam champion came away impressed by the way that the Italian refused to bend under pressure, in both singles and doubles.

“We know that he's got one of the fastest forehands in the game and he puts a lot of spin and a lot of power in it. I wasn't surprised too much by that,” Djokovic said, adding:

“I know Jannik's quality, but I was thinking maybe he's gonna drop a little bit, in the doubles, but he didn't. He kept the level extremely high, and at the end of the singles match also, in the third set, I had a lot of chances to break him and was in his service games, but every time he needed it, he found the serve.”

Sinner's run of great results is impressive, but his performance against elite talent is what really jumps off the page. This is not a player racking up titles against soft competition as the season winds down. Far from it.

Sinner was 0-8 against the Top-3 prior to the 2023 season. This year, he dominated the best players in the sport, going 8-3 vs. the Top-3.

In addition to defeating Djokovic twice, Sinner has also made big strides against the other two players ahead of him in the rankings. In his electric rivalry with No.2-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, Sinner has won the last two meetings, and now holds the 4-3 overall edge.

Sinner has also turned the tide against Daniil Medvedev. He lost his first six meetings against the Russian, but won all three matches they played this autumn, despite he fact that Medvedev was in the midst of an exceptional year.

The three losses left Medvedev duly impressed. Like De Minaur, the Russian believes Sinner is a big wave surfer.

“Very impressed, to be honest,” Medvedev said after falling to Sinner in the final four at the Nitto ATP Finals. “He can run well. If you give him easy ball, you feel like he moves you over the court. He can volley well. Serve has improved a lot. Right now he's riding a wave."

Medvedev thinks Sinner can wins Slams and reach No.1 in the rankings if he keeps it up.

“I generally believe if he plays like this, like he played last weeks, all the time, he's going to have slams, No. 1,” the Russian said. “Then it comes to how many weeks, how many slams, stuff like this. The question is how often is he going to ride it, and when he's not on the wave, how good he plays.”

Future No.1?

If he can perform that well against the three players ranked ahead of him, why shouldn’t we imagine Sinner as a future No.1 and Grand Slam champion?

Djokovic also sees Sinner as a wave that has yet to reach its maximum destructive capacity. But when it does, watch out.

“He needs to keep going because he's definitely on the right path,” Djokovic said. “I'm not the only one who is saying he can win slams and be No. 1 in the world. I would be very surprised if that doesn't happen. I don't know if it's next year or the year to come. He's 22. He has a lot of time ahead of him.”

Recency bias certainly plays a part in our assessment of Sinner’s potential, but to watch the Italian work his magic on a tennis court is to believe. He’s beating the best and he’s doing it with authority, on his terms.

Even scarier, Sinner's once attackable serve is still developing, as are other elements of his game. He’s still gaining in experience (he’s relatively new to the Grand Slam game with just 16 appearances at the majors), and he hasn’t fully grown into his body either.

With the proper rest and another productive off-season, Sinner should keep riding his wave right into 2024.


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