Embracing only his second season as a pro, Jannik Sinner made massive progress through the ATP list in 2019 after winning three Challenger titles. The super talented youngster also made a Major debut at the US Open, reached the Antwerp semi-final and conquered the ATP Next Gen Finals at home in Milan.
After a slower start to the 2020 campaign, the youngster started to play better in the closing stages and secured 15 wins from the season's last 19 matches, gathering a boost ahead of 2021. Jannik claimed his first ATP title in Sofia after a deep Roland Garros run that made him the youngest quarter-finalist on debut since Rafael Nadal in 2005!
After four impressive victories, the Italian faced the ultimate challenge in the last eight, with the 12-time Roland Garros winner Nadal standing on the other side of the net. Nadal and Sinner hit the court late thanks to a marathon between Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman, finishing the encounter at 1:30 am!
Nadal needed two hours and 49 minutes (he spent eight minutes less on the court against Novak Djokovic in the final) to dismiss the youngster 7-6, 6-4, 6-1, trailing in sets one and two before crossing the finish line in straight sets.
The Spaniard scored six breaks from eight chances and gave serve away twice, producing 37 winners and 33 unforced errors. Unimpressed with the mighty opponent, Jannik matched Rafa's pace and grabbed the first break at 5-5 to serve for the opening set.
Nadal landed two forehand winners to pull the break back in the last moment and prolong the action, taking the tie break 7-4 when Sinner sent a forehand long right after the serve to avoid an early scare. Jannik played well in set number two, opening a 3-1 lead before Rafa erased the deficit a few minutes later and locked the result at 3-3.
Jannik Sinner described his experience vs. Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros last year.
Leading 40-15 at 4-4, Sinner lost four straight points to suffer a break, allowing Nadal to secure the set a few minutes later and move closer to the finish line.
Carried by this momentum, Rafa grabbed a break in the third set's first game thanks to a backhand crosscourt winner and again at 2-0 at love 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 semis without losing a set.
Speaking about the match, Sinner said he felt good right from the start, trying to stay focused against the world's finest clay-courter and enjoy every minute of it. "I felt good when I entered the stadium to play against Rafa.
He is the "King of Clay" and one of the best players of all time. It wasn't easy, but I tried to stay focused," Jannik Sinner said.