What is it like playing Sinner and does he have a chance against Djokovic? | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Australian Open 2024: What is it like playing Jannik Sinner and does he have a chance against Djokovic?

Jan 13, 2024 02:48 PM IST

India’s Aryan Goveas recalls his match against Sinner and says he can make a breakthrough in Melbourne

“Who’s this guy?”

Italy's Jannik Sinner plays a forehand return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open(AP)
Italy's Jannik Sinner plays a forehand return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open(AP)

That was Aryan Goveas’ reaction when he first heard the name Jannik Sinner.

It was at an ITF Futures event in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in January 2018. Goveas was drawn to play Sinner in the first round of the hard-court tournament.

The spindly, hard-hitting Italian right-hander is one of form players going into the 2024 Australian Open. But back then, Sinner was a mystery on the circuit. He was 16 and had barely played any junior tournaments.

“I think that was his first match on the pro tour,” Goveas says about their encounter. “When I saw the draw, I remember thinking, ‘Who’s this guy?’ He had not played many junior events and I couldn’t find anything on him.”

As the match began, Sinner’s quality soon became apparent to his opponent. A talented skier, Sinner moved beautifully on the court. He also had a big backhand and a mental serenity beyond his years.

“His movement around the court…very few people that age are that flexible and balanced,” says Goveas. “His backhand was amazing. His forehand has become his weapon now but back then his backhand was really big. He caught me on that side a lot of times.”

About Sinner’s mentality, Goveas says, “When players are 16, 17, they often lose their cool. But Sinner was calm. He did not argue with umpires even if he got a bad call.”

Aryan Goveas(Twitter)
Aryan Goveas(Twitter)

The well-contested match went Sinner’s way 6-4 6-4. Goveas immediately told his coach, “This guy will reach the top ten.”

Sinner has done better. He has cracked the top five. ‘Il Carota’ (The Carrot), as he is known due to his red hair, is currently world no. 4.

It has been a swift rise up Mount Tennis for Sinner. In 2019, just over a year after playing Goveas, he was named the ATP Tour’s Newcomer of the Year.

In 2020, he won his first ATP Tour title, and in 2021 he broke into the top ten.

Last year was Sinner’s best. And that is why there is a buzz around him at the Australian Open. In 2023, he won his first Masters 1000 title. He helped Italy claim the Davis Cup. And he did something no one has in a long time, slay the mighty Novak Djokovic twice in a matter of eleven days.

But that was in the best-of-three-sets format. Can he do it in best-of-five? At Wimbledon 2022 Sinner created excited murmurs around Centre Court by taking a two-set lead against Djokovic, only for the bear to characteristically wake up and clean up the rest of the match.

Can Sinner go all the way should the two meet in Australia, where Djokovic has won ten titles?

“Djokovic is definitely the favourite,” says Goveas. “But I feel Sinner, with the way he ended last year, and maybe Carlos Alcaraz, are in the best position to at least have a fighting chance against Djokovic and at the title.”

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