Young Italian Jannik Sinner played in his first Major quarter-final at the last year's Roland Garros before claiming the first ATP title in Sofia. Working hard ahead of the new season, Jannik opened the 2021 campaign training with Rafael Nadal in Adelaide before entering the first tournament in Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne.
In the semi-final, Jannik prevailed over Karen Khachanov 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 in three hours and seven minutes, fending off a match point in the decider to advance into the second ATP final. It was one of the most exciting encounters of the season's opening month, with two rivals pushing each other to the limits from start to finish.
Jannik Sinner saved a match point against Karen Khachanov in Melbourne.
A teenager had 46 winners and 56 unforced errors, with a similar number of mistakes on the Russian's tally, only with fewer winners. Sinner worked hard behind the initial shot to overcome 12 out of 17 break chances, delivering four breaks on the other side and reaching the top following an inspired performance in the closing stages.
Karen saved a set point at 4-5 on the second serve in the opening set and grabbed a break in the next one when Jannik sprayed a forehand error. The Italian repelled a set point in the 12th game with a forehand winner and converted the fourth break chance to level the score at 6-6 and introduce a tie break that he won 7-4 after 62 minutes.
The youngster clinched a break in set number two and opened a 4-3 gap before Karen stepped in to seize two consecutive return games and secure the set after forcing Jannik's error in game ten. The Italian grabbed an early break in the final set, kept it to open a 5-3 gap and served for the victory in game ten.
Ready to fight until the end, Khachanov broke back in the last moment to level the score at 5-5 and earned a match point on the return at 6-5. In a manner of a true champion, Jannik saved it with a smash winner and set up another tie break, with a boost on his side.
The Italian moved 6-4 up with a forehand drive-volley winner and sealed the deal with a smash winner in the next point for a hard-fought victory and a place in the final.