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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Jannik Sinner defeated Carlos Alcaraz for the fourth time in seven meetings to reach the Beijing final and become the second Italian man to crack the Top 5.

Photo credit: Fred Lee/Getty

Patience is a virtue, but Jannik Sinner had no time for tolerance today.

Commanding the center of the court, an assertive Sinner toppled top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz 7-6(4), 6-1 to charge into the Beijing final—and take a historic leap for Italian tennis.

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The 22-year-old Sinner rises three spots in the rankings to a career-high ranking of No. 4 matching legendary Adriano Panatta’s 1976 ranking in becoming just the second Italian man in history to crack the Top 5.

“For sure, very tough; I would say every match against him is very tough,” Sinner told Lee Goodall in his on-court interview. “I think we always show great respect. We both played very, very great and when we play against each other we try to stay on our limits.

“Today I played a little bit better in the important moments. The second set, yeah it was 6-1, but you know he had a lot of chances and I just tried to stay focused and obviously the first set was a little bit more of a rollercoaster. I tried to stay there mentally and obviously I’m very happy about the performance.”

It was Sinner’s fourth victory in seven meetings with Alcaraz, including his second straight hard-court win after 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 triumph in the Miami Open semifinals last spring.

Interestingly, in Sinner’s three prior wins over Alcaraz he had lost a tiebreaker set each time.

Tonight, Sinner surrendered serve in the opening game, but This seventh clash between the two young stars popped with some tremendous running rallies. It featured phenomenal hitting from Sinner, who vaporized some lethal forehands that left the speedy Alcaraz, arguably the fastest man in the sport, sometimes lunging at air. Sinner smacked 13 of his 15 winners from the forehand wing, while Alcaraz hit 13 winners, including nine from his favored forehand wing.

Sinner won all 15 trips to net, while Alcaraz, usually the more forceful frontcourt player, was seven of 10 at net.

Clearly, Sinner came out with an aggressive mind-set. Tactically and technically, Sinner was intent on imposing his forceful first strike to try to neuter Alcaraz’s speed and creativity and the Italian did exactly that when it mattered most.

Outplaying Alcaraz in the first-set tiebreaker, Sinner broke to start the the second set, staved off two break points to consolidate then made a stirring stand saving triple break point holding for a 3-1 second-set lead that seemed to sap strength from the 20-year-old Spaniard.

“I think the execution went really, really well,” Sinner said. “I won’t say exactly what we said [before the match], but mostly trying to stay aggressive. Because when he has a lot of time, he plays really really good and really really aggressive so you know both of us change up a couple of things.

“He has done a couple of things differently from the last meetings and I was quite prepared for this one. And obviously the next time when we play we will both change again a little bit. It’s, I guess, a very entertaining match and yeah let’s see what’s in the future coming.”

The sixth-seeded Sinner stopped one US Open champion tonight and will now face another in Daniil Medvedev in tomorrow’s final.

The 2021 US Open champion Medvedev defeated Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-3 —his 10th victory in 17 meetings vs. the German—to reach his 35th career final.

Playing for his sixth title of the season, Medvedev is trying to extend his unique record by capturing a 21st championship in 21 different cities.

“Really happy,” Medvedev told the media in Beijing. “Great match. Tough, tough draw. Tough opponent. Being in the final, great result.

“The thing about tennis, when you're in the final or first round, you always want to win the tournament, the whole thing. So I hope I can show my best tomorrow and try to beat a tough opponent.”

The final is a rematch of the Miami Open final, which Medvedev won 7-5, 6-3. Medvedev aims to maintain his mastery of Sinner carrying a 6-0 record against the Italian into the final, though he expects a tougher test.

“Against Jannik so far, I'm going quite good in head-to-head,” Medvedev said. “But we had different matches. He's still so young. Every match he learns. Every tournament he learns.

“Since last time we played, he managed to get his first 1000 Masters title. It's a big boost of confidence. Every time we play, he's going to want to beat me more and more.”

Alcaraz vs. Sinner is already one of the most riveting rivalries in the sport. The pair collaborated on an absolute classic that saw Alcaraz save match points to out-duel Sinner in a 2022 US Open quarterfinal epic.

In this rematch, the Wimbledon winner would have been wise to wield his advantage—the vast variety in his game—add more shape to his shots and try to disrupt Sinner’s rhythm. That said, when Sinner is unleashing the ballistic ball-striking he delivered today, he can rush Alacaraz into errors and deny the Spaniard the time to set up and make the magic happen.

Sinner said the familiarity between the rivals makes this match one of constant adjustments.

“I think we both get to know each other a little bit better and then I think this makes for him and for me easier, but also more difficult,” Sinner said. “Because we know each other much much better and you know today it was my day.

“Let’s see what’s in the next meeting come. I always enjoy to play against him and as I say we have a lot of respect and now I’m focused about tomorrow’s final.”

Bursting out of the blocks with crackling strikes, Alcaraz drilled a diagonal forehand to earn the opening break.

Sinner staved off a pair of break points holding in the third game to get on the board.

Twenty-three minutes into the semifinal rallies were escalating in intensity and length. Sinner was thumping the ball with menacing intent rattling out an error to break back and level after four games.

Matching the firepower coming from across the net, the pair exchanged breaks in the fifth and sixth games.

Deadlocked at 4-all, Alcaraz made some remarkable running digs throwing up a couple of defensive lobs before Sinner slammed down a smash. That crucial hold helped Sinner edge ahead 5-4 after 49 minutes.

The pace and depth of Sinner’s drives gave the top seed little to work with in the tiebreaker.

Sinner struck immediately earning the mini break for a 2-0 lead when Alcaraz netted a forehand.

Struggling to elevate his shots against Sinner’s heavy flat drives, Alcaraz committed three netted errors, including netting a forehand as Sinner earned set points at 6-4.

Stepping in to pounce on a second serve, Sinner scalded a sizzling forehand return winner snatching the 72-minute opening set with a bang.

Though Alcaraz typically plays with more spin on his shots, Sinner was cracking the ball with more vigor and often asserting his aggression in rallies.

The lanky Italian broke to start the second set, then played some shrewd shorter angles saving break points and battling through a challenging 12-minute hold to back up the break for 2-0.

Alcaraz lashed his third ace holding for 1-2.

Though the Spaniard was sometimes struggling to defend Sinner’s drives in the corners, Alcaraz set his feet in the center of the court gaining triple break point in the fourth game.

At that point, Sinner seemed to have lost a bit of his edge. The Italian regrouped, repelling three straight break points to work through a hard-fought hold for 3-1.

A fan yelled out “come on Carlos!” Alcaraz tried to answer the call, but the explosive Sinner was dialing up misery.

Rocketing his forehand to pin the top seed behind the baseline, Sinner cranked a forehand with so much pace it rattled out a framed forehand from Alcaraz as the Italian scored his fourth break for 4-1.

One final Alcaraz backhand expired into net as Sinner closed a quality one hour, 54-minute victory with both men sharing a respectful embrace at net.

China Open fans sent Alcaraz off with a rousing ovation perhaps hoping, like us, to see many more battles between these two.


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