Jannik Sinner: 'Rafael Nadal's mental strength is superior; it's another level'

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Jannik Sinner: 'Rafael Nadal's mental strength is superior; it's another level'

Jannik Sinner has been a teenager to watch in the men's tennis in the last two seasons. Kicking off the 2019 season from outside the top-500, Jannik stormed over the rest of the field to crack the top-100 in November, earning a perfect starting position for 2020.

Sinner conquered the first Challenger title on an indoor hard court in Bergamo in February last year, lifting the Futures crown a week later, another on the fast surface. By the end of the year, Jannik claimed two more Challenger crowns, made a Major debut at the US Open and reached the first ATP semi-final in Antwerp.

Entering the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan with a wild card and as the youngest competitor, Jannik left more experienced players behind and conquer the title, focusing on the ATP events in 2020 and gathering experience in this plagued season.

Heading to Roland Garros with six wins from 14 encounters, Sinner found his A-game on his Parisian debut, beating four rivals to advance into the quarter-final as the first player born in 2001 at this level. Jannik became the first quarter-finalist on Roland Garros debut since Rafael Nadal in 2005, facing the great Spaniard and suffering a 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss after a great effort in sets one and two.

Nadal and Sinner had to wait for hours to start their clash on Court Philippe-Chatrier following the marathon between Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman that lasted for over five hours, closing the day at the office just before 1:30 am!

Rafa had to work much harder than in the previous four matches to earn the 98th Roland Garros triumph, battling against a determined opponent before breaking his resistance in set number three. Sinner gave his best against a grand champion, wasting his opportunities and having nothing more left in the tank for the third to finish the first Roland Garros campaign in the quarters.

Nadal scored six breaks from eight chances and suffered two breaks, completing the clash with 37 winners and 33 unforced errors to set Diego Schwartzman test.

Jannik Sinner praised Rafael Nadal's mental strength and skills.

They both held at love in the opening two service games for a solid start, with Nadal repelling a break point at 2-2 following a loose backhand from the youngster.

There were no break chances in the next five games, as Sinner became the first player who took five games from Nadal in a single set this year in Paris. Not stopping there, a teenager grabbed a break at 5-5 when Nadal sent a forehand wide, serving for the set and the best start of the encounter.

With no room for errors, the Spaniard fired a couple of forehand down the line winners to bring the break back and level the score at 6-6 ahead of the tie break. He was the favorite now, opening a 5-2 lead and sealing it at 6-4 when Sinner sprayed a forehand mistake.

The youngster placed a forehand winner at 2-1 in set number two to forge the advantage. The more experienced player broke back immediately after a forehand error from Jannik, leveling the score at 3-3 and gaining momentum.

Sinner had a 40-15 lead in game nine before Nadal took four straight points to achieve a crucial break, closing the set at 5-4 and moving closer to the finish line after two hours and 11 minutes. Carried by this momentum, Nadal broke in the first game of the third set with a backhand crosscourt winner, held after deuce and broke again at love when Jannik sprayed a backhand mistake to open a 3-0 gap.

The Spaniard held after another deuce in game four and sealed the deal with a break at 5-1, overpowering the youngster and advancing into the last four. "Nadal's mental aspect is superior. He strikes hard like everyone, but he knows the moments and exactly what he has to do, how and when. It's another level," Jannik Sinner said.