Panatta: 'Against Rafael Nadal, Jannik Sinner proved he can challenge top players'

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Panatta: 'Against Rafael Nadal, Jannik Sinner proved he can challenge top players'

Former world no. 4 and the Roland Garros champion Adriano Panatta praised his young compatriot Jannik Sinner and his abilities. Jannik made impressive progress through the ATP ranking list in the last two years, moving from outside the top-500 into the top-40 and finishing the previous season as the only teenager in the top-100.

Jannik claimed three Challenger titles in 2019 as one of the youngest players to achieve that, setting eyes on bigger goals in 2020 and proving his quality on the most notable scene. Jannik became the youngest ATP champion since 2008 when he conquered the ATP 250 title in Sofia at the end of the season, cracking the top-40 with those points and hoping for another strong run in 2021.

Jannik's best performance in the season behind us came at Roland Garros, shining on his Parisian debut to become the youngest debutant in the quarter-final since Rafael Nadal in 2005. The young gun toppled four rivals to reach the last eight, facing the 12-time champion Nadal in the most formidable challenge on the slowest surface.

Showing no sign of nerves against the greatest clay-courter of all time, Jannik was in front in the first and second sets before Nadal bounced back to forge a 7-6, 6-4, 6-1 triumph in two hours and 49 minutes. In Panatta's opinion, it was the match that proved Jannik's abilities and showed he is ready to challenge the world's best players in the upcoming years.

Rafa and Jannik had to wait for hours to get on the court, kicking off the encounter after a marathon between Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman and wrapping up the match at 1:30 am!

Adriano Panatta praised Jannik Sinner's performace against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal grabbed six breaks from eight opportunities and got broken twice, landing 37 winners and 33 unforced errors.

Sinner created a break chance at 2-2 and served well in the opening 50 minutes to become the first player who took five games in a single set from Rafa last year in Paris. Not stopping there, Jannik produced a break at 5-5 to move in front, serving for the set but losing ground in the crucial moment.

Nadal landed two forehand winners to pull the break back and prolong the set, taking the tie break 7-4 when Sinner sent a forehand long right after the serve. The youngster placed a forehand winner at 2-1 in set number two to move in front, still pushing strong and remaining ice cold.

The more experienced player broke back immediately after a forehand error from Jannik, leveling the score at 3-3 and gaining a boost. Sinner had a 40-15 lead in game nine but couldn't bring it home, dropping four straight points and allowing Rafa to seize a crucial break and a set after two hours and 11 minutes.

Carried by this momentum, Rafa grabbed a break in the third set's first game thanks to a backhand crosscourt winner and another at love two games later when Jannik sprayed a backhand mistake. The Spaniard sealed the deal with the third break at 5-1, overpowering the youngster and advancing into the last four.

"Jannik proved against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros that he could compete against the world's leading players," Adriano Panatta said.