Jannik Sinner: 'Rafael Nadal is toughest rival at Roland Garros, but I'm positive'

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Jannik Sinner: 'Rafael Nadal is toughest rival at Roland Garros, but I'm positive'

The 19-year-old Jannik Sinner enjoys a dream Roland Garros debut, winning four matches and dropping only one set en route to the quarters. Defeating Alexander Zverev on Sunday, Jannik became the youngest Major quarter-finalist since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and in Paris since Novak Djokovic in 2006.

The young Italian is the first player in the last eight at Roland Garros on debut since Rafael Nadal in 2005, earning a chance to meet the 12-time champion in the quarters on Saturday. Having an opportunity to train with Rafa at the Australian Open, Jannik is familiar with the Spaniard's game and his records in Paris, labeling him as the most formidable rival at Roland Garros but feeling optimistic about his chances.

In the fourth round, Sinner took down Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours. The German was the quarter-finalist here in the previous two years but couldn't extend the streak, giving his best but finishing on the losing side after battling with both Sinner and cold and fever that have been bothering him for two days.

Nothing could separate Sinner and Zverev in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, with the younger opponent dominating the most extended rallies to forge the triumph in four sets. Jannik produced more efficient numbers behind the second serve, spraying 56 unforced errors but hitting more winners than the German who opted to stay behind, not risking much.

Alexander converted two out of eight break opportunities, suffering five breaks from six chances offered to Sinner and falling in four sets despite a solid effort considering the circumstances. The Italian grabbed the first break in the fourth game when the German netted a forehand, fending off three break chances in the next one to forge a 4-1 advantage.

Jannik Sinner is ready for his first claha against Rafael Nadal.

Zverev held at love in games six and eight, with Sinner serving for the opener at 5-3. Jannik faced two break points in that ninth game, staying focused to save them and seal the opener with a forehand winner after 42 minutes.

Jannik lost five points behind the initial shot in set number two, delivering two breaks for 6-3. A teenager placed a deep return for a break at 1-1, providing another one at 5-3 to move closer to the finish line. Eager to give his everything, Alexander broke in the first game of the third set before Jannik pulled the break back at 2-3 to level the score.

At 4-4, Sinner hit a double fault to give serve away, with Zverev seizing the sixth set point on his serve a few minutes later to force set number four. Sinner grabbed a break in the second game thanks to a loose backhand from Zverev, repelling a break chance in the next one after an excellent point to confirm the advantage.

That was the last break point of the match, with both players serving well until the end. Serving at 5-3, Jannik forced an error from Alexander to seal the deal and advance into the quarters, setting the first clash against the 19-time Major champion Nadal.

"I'm going to play Rafa Nadal in the next round, it's not the easiest match, especially not at Roland Garros. I know his records and confidence while competing in Paris; it seems that nobody can beat him, but I am positive. I'm going to rest and see what happens in two days, hoping to play my best tennis," Jannik Sinner said.