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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, January 28, 2024


Jannik Sinner roared back from a two-set deficit defeating Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 In the Australian Open final to capture his maiden major title.

Photo credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty

Staring down a two-set deficit, the walls were closing in on Jannik Sinner.

Cracking deep drives with complete commitment, Sinner battered the barrier across net to hit his way into history.

More: Richard Evans Q&A

In a topsy-turvy Australian Open final, Sinner roared back from a two-set deficit defeating Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to capture his maiden major championship.

The 22-year-old Sinner made history as the first Italian to win the Australian Open singles crown and follows legendary Adriano Pannatta, the 1976 Roland Garros champion, as the first Italian man in 48 years to raise a Grand Slam title trophy.

The fourth-seeded Sinner slashed one final forehand down the line then dropped to the blue hard court in pure bliss completing a captivating comeback in three hours, 44 minutes.

"First of all Daniil I just want to congrats you and your team for an amazing tournament again," Sinner told Medvedev during the trophy presentation. "I know we played so many finals together. Every match I find something I can improve.

"You make me a much, much better player. Obviously, your effort has been awesome throughout the whole tournament. The hours on the court and today running for every ball it’s remarkable to see. I hope you can lift this trophy here, but I’m sure that you can so I wish you all the best for the season."

Sinner, who snapped world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s 33-match AO winning streak with a commanding semifinal victory, is 27-2 since the US Open and despite the rankings he’s clearly playing the best tennis of any man in the world.

If you doubt it, consider Sinner has now won 10 of his last 11 matches against Top 5-ranked players, he's beaten Medvedev four times in a row and defeated Djokovic in three of their last four meetings, including saving match points to prevail in a gripping Davis Cup semifinal. Sinner is the youngest man since Djokovic in 2008 to master Melbourne.

One man's bliss is another's brutality and Medvedev, who poured every piece of himself into this final, stared vacantly into space afterward absorbing the pain of coming so close to his second major championship.

It’s an absolutely gut-wrenching loss for Medvedev, marking the second time in three years he squandered a two-set lead in the Australian Open final. Medvedev, who was contesting his sixth final in his last 10 hard-court majors, was up two sets on Rafael Nadal before bowing in five sets in the 2022 Australian Open final.

Medvedev made ignominious history as the first man in the Open Era to lose two Slam finals from two sets up, but you have to respect the grit and guts he showed tonight putting up a tremendous final fight despite spending nearly six hours longer than Sinner on court just to reach the final.

In the final games, Medvedev's legs looked like licorice as he tried to hang on, but Sinner was simply too strong down the stretch.

"I got a little tired physically, but like every other match before, just every other match before, my opponents didn't manage to take advantage of it or them also, they became tired," said Medvedev, who dropped to 7-10 in five-setters in his post-match press conference. "Jannik didn't really, because in the fifth set I was, like every other match, I was trying to be proud of myself, and I am.

"I was fighting, I was running. I was, like, I will try to, if tomorrow I don't feel my legs it doesn't matter, I'm going to try everything I can today until the last point, and I did it. And there were some points in the end where he was not -- I mean, adrenaline going, but he didn't seem as tired as my opponents before. He started playing better. I got a little bit tired. Serve went a little bit worse.

"So the momentum changed and I really tried in my mind to change it back again, because that's what tennis is about. But I didn't manage to do it, and that's why he's the winner and has the trophy."

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Showing champion's character in the aftermath of a brutal loss, Medvedev was pure class in defeat.

“I want to congratulate Jannik because today you showed again why you deserved it,” said Medvedev, who played an astounding 306 total games in the tournament. "You fought to the end you managed to raise your level. You and your team are doing an amazing job. You are winning a lot of tournaments getting to a lot of finals.

"Probably that’s not your last Grand Slam. I hope I can try to get one if we play in the final because it’s been what three finals in a row. I’ll try my best to do better next time. But really big congrats and you deserve it.

"It’s been honestly an amazing two weeks. It always hurts to lose in the final, but probably being in the final is better than losing before. I always want to win, but I guess I have to try harder next time. I’m proud of myself and I’m going to try even harder next time.”

Ultimately, Sinner’s self belief was unwavering and he showed strong closing kick to surpass the marathon man at the finish line.

A valiant Medvedev was within six points of his maiden Australian Open final—and major history.

A resolute Sinner matched Medvedev’s grit pulling off a pulsating comeback to deny the Russian’s bid to become the first man in Open Era history to win four five-setters en route to a Grand Slam championship.

Medvedev's mounting fatigue was Sinner's fuel to keep fighting knowing his opponent's gas tank had to empty eventually.

"He played really, really well for the first two sets or two-and-a-half sets," Sinner said. "I tried just to play even level, trying to take a couple of chances in the third set, which I've done. When you win one very important game, the match can change occasionally, and that was the case today.

"I just tried to stay as long in the court as possible, knowing that he has spent so many hours on the court. The more the match goes on, maybe physically I'm a little bit better today, because he played so many hours.

"I think that today that was the key."

The 22-year-old Italian won the toss, elected to serve and held to open. Sinner had held in 45 straight service games. But that did not faze Medvedev who jumped out to a triple break point lead in the third game.

Three-time AO finalist Medvedev rapped a forehand pass breaking for 2-1.

Showing no signs of fatigue, Medvedev slid four aces in his first two service games confirming the break at love for 3-1.

The Russian was hitting the ball harder and serving with more authority than the maiden major finalist, smacking his sixth ace for a 5-3 lead.

Tennis Express

Though Sinner solidified his status as one of the sport’s purest ball strikers snapping Novak Djokovic’s 33-match AO winning streak with a resounding semifinal upset, a calm Medvedev was more offensive at the outset of this final.

On his third set point, Medvedev maneuvered the ball around the court drawing an errant backhand to snatch a one-set lead after 36 minutes of play.

Medvedev served 86 percent, won 16 of 19 first-serve points and more than doubled the Italian’s winner total—14 to 5—in a commanding first set.

The winner of the first set had won nine of the last 10 Australian Open men’s final.

Marathon man Medvedev had spent nearly six hours longer than Sinner on court—scoring three of his six tournament victories in five-setters—yet the Russian looked fresher at the start.

Squeezing Sinner in a vise grip of pressure in the second game of set two, Medvedev was battering backhands crosscourt earning four break points.

“Throw it back at him!” coach Darren Cahill shouted at Sinner. The red-haired Italian responded, fighting through an 11-and-a-half minute hold and slamming a swing volley for 1-1.

Across the net, Medvedev started the second set stamping successive love holds for 2-1.

In his four-set upset of 10-time AO champion Djokovic, Sinner did not face a single break point.

Facing an oppressive Medvedev, Sinner looked like a man gasping for air on serve.

Facing his ninth break point in the fourth game, a baffled Sinner again resorted to a bail-out drop shot only to see Medvedev attack it and block a forehand volley for his third break and a 3-1 lead.

Channeling his inner Roger Federer, Medvedev swarmed net, flicking two fine stretch volleys in stamping his third straight shutout hold for 4-1.

Seemingly out of solutions in baseline exchanges, Sinner tried to serve and volley but pushed a relatively routine forehand volley wide to surrender serve for the fourth time dropping to a 5-1 chasm. Sinner, who had only dropped serve twice all tournament, surrendered serve for the fourth time in this final.

To that point a dominant Medvedev did not face a single break point.

Serving for a two set lead, Medvedev’s level dipped a bit and Sinner stepped up winning a scalding backhand exchange for his first break of the night in the seventh game.

Stepping up to serve for the second set again, Medvedev climbed out of a 15-30 hole only to hit his second double fault on set point. Sinner earned a break point spiking a roar from Rod Laver Arena fans who desperately wanted some drama.

Medvedev was in no mood for complications. Prevailing in a 12-shot rally by drawing a netted running forehand from the Italian, Medvedev earned a second set point.

This time, the 2021 US Open champion danced around his backhand and drilled a forehand down the line seizing a two-set lead after just 85 minutes.

It was the third time Medvedev opened a two-set lead in a major final. Medvedev swept Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the 2021 US Open final, denying the Serbian superstar the calendar Grand slam. In the 2022 Australian Open final, Medvedev again built a two-set lead only to suffer gut-wrenching loss to a resurgent Rafael Nadal.

Unleashing the warrior within, Nadal delivered the comeback of his career battling by Medvedev 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 to capture his 21st Grand Slam title in an epic and astounding 2022 Australian Open final.

The question tonight: Could Medvedev close out a two-set lead against the Italian Davis Cup hero?

A year ago, Sinner was third on the ATP Tour in return games won (29.1%) behind only Medvedev and Wimbledon winner Carlos Alcaraz. Tonight, Sinner struggled to land clean returns off the Russian’s stinging serve for two sets.

Still, Sinner was timing the ball better, backing up a bit on the return and playing with more control as the set progressed.

Though he was down, Sinner did not look disconsolate and went to work battering Medvedev’s defenses.

The fourth seed navigated a tense deuce hold to edge ahead 5-4 in the third set.

In a grinding game, Sinner drew a forehand error for set point in the 10th game. The Russian took a deep breath before serving, but was soon scrambling. Sinner sent a drive down the line drawing another errant forehand to post his first break to take the third set and force a fourth after two hours, 10 minutes.

After Sinner held for a 2-1 fourth-set lead, Medvedev took a brief medical timeout to have his right foot re-taped while he sucked on some energy gel.

A bold backhand down the line helped Medvedev save a break point as he eventually held to even the fourth set after four games.

Deadlocked 3-all, Sinner double faulted to go down love-30. Two hours, 48-minutes into this battle, Medvedev lifted a crosscourt forehand that Sinner could not handle break point. Running the serve clock to its end, Sinner slammed his 10th ace down the T. Sinner stung his third ace of the game solving stress to move ahead 4-3.

A drained Medvedev was desperately trying to hang on, but Sinner wasn’t having it.

Playing more proactive points, Sinner was pushing the three-time finalist into defensive positions.

Driving the ball deep down the middle denying the Russian access to angles, Sinner forced a backhand error for set point in the 10th game. A weary Medvedev was looking a half-step slower as Sinner smoked a forehand into the corner drawing a running error.

For the second set in a row, Sinner broke in the final game to seal the set.

A fired-up Sinner flashed a fist to his box as Italian fans waved the tricolor flag furiously supporting their man’s comeback to force a fifth set after three hours, five minutes.

For the fifth time in the last eight years, the AO final would be decided in a fifth set. For Medvedev, it would prove to be devastating deja vu of his 2022 final loss when he fell 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 to Nadal.

Midway through the final set, the toll of four five-setters and more than 24 hours total on court drained the 6’6” Russian’s legs.

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Lacking lift on his serve, Medvedev was missing first serves and Sinner was swarming.

Cracking a series of sharp forehands, Sinner broke the reeling big man for a 4-3 lead three hours, 33 minutes into this final. Closing in on the dream, Sinner turned and pumped a clench fist to his team, who leaped to their feet in elation seeing the finish line so close.

A resolute Sinner slashed one final forehand to close a gripping three hour, 44 minute triumph.

Champions ranging from Rafael Nadal to John McEnroe predicted Sinner would win Grand Slams when he burst onto the pro tour as a talented teenager.

Throughout this 15-day Melbourne trip to the tile, Sinner met all challenges with the self-assurance of a champion committed to more major moments like this magical Melbourne night.

"I'm extremely happy that I am in this position now," Sinner said. "I have a great team behind me who knows what I have to do. With Darren [Cahill], he has a lot of experience. He has been through this already numbers of time. Simone [Vagnozzi], we were talking already after the match that we can improve still."

The red-haired Italian who inspired the Carota Boys fan force sees this major moment as a championship carrot inspiring improvement.

"Obviously having this trophy, it's an amazing feeling," Sinner said. "I feel grateful to have this here. But I know that I have to work even harder, because the opponents, they will find the way to beat me and I have to be prepared.

"Let's see what's coming in the future."


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