Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal hit practice court with Jannik Sinner


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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal hit practice court with Jannik Sinner

The first Major tournament of the season kicks off on Monday and the players have been working hard on shaping up their strokes ahead of the first encounters. Former champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will seek the title together with the seven-time winner Novak Djokovic and the young guns like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, making the final preparations with different rivals at Melbourne Park before the start of the main action.

The legends have shared 39 Major trophies between them and one promising youngster as the practice partner, both hitting with an 18-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, the youngest competitor in the top-100 who will make a debut at the Australian Open.

Born in a village in the Dolomites, Jannik was a promising skier before choosing tennis as his primary sport, making a professional debut in 2018 and reaching the first Futures final that year. After a slow start of 2019, a tall youngster who works with Riccardo Piatti and Andrea Volpini advanced into the semi-final of the Aktobe Futures before heading home to Bergamo, shifting into a higher gear and claiming the first Challenger crown on the fast indoor court, dropping only 14 games in the last three encounters to make a name for himself!

It was the first Challenger crown for 2001 generation and Jannik had no intention of stopping there, conquering the trophy at Trento Futures in the following week to wrap up the perfect fortnight. After a much-needed rest, Sinner went to Santa Margherita Di Pula and claimed another Futures crown, rattling off 16 straight victories before scoring the first ATP win in Budapest at the end of April as a qualifier.

Right after that, Jannik was the finalist of the strong Challenger in Ostrava, securing further progress on the ATP ranking list ahead of home Masters 1000 event in Rome where he became the first player of his generation with a win at that level, ousting Steve Johnson in a tight third set for another milestone under his belt.

Jannik earned a place in the main draw in Lyon and s-Hertogenbosch, gathering experience on the ATP Tour before his coevals and staying on the winning course on hard courts as well, lifting the trophy Lexington Challenger and qualifying for the main draw at the US Open where he took a set away from a former champion Stan Wawrinka.

The semi-finalist at the ATP 250 event in Antwerp, the Italian cracked the top-100 for the first time after one victory at the ATP 500 event in Vienna, earning another achievement for his generation and gathering momentum ahead of the Next Gen Finals in Milan.

Jannik was the player to beat in front of the home fans, producing dominant tennis over older rivals and defeating Alex de Minaur in the title match to confirm the status of the upcoming star. A week later, Sinner wrapped up the season in Ortisei, delivering another high-quality performance on an indoor court to celebrate the third Challenger title of the season, becoming the youngest player to achieve that after Richard Gasquet.

With these points, Sinner secured the place in the year-end top-80, becoming only the fifth U18 player in that group since 2000 after Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov, earning the ATP Newcomer of the Year award ahead of Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The start of 2020 has not been that good for Jannik but there's a massive chance of improving that in Melbourne, facing a qualifier in the first round and seeking the first Major victory of his young career ahead of possible Denis Shapovalov clash.