Data check: Here's why Sinner is a cut above the rest | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Data check: Here's why Sinner is a cut above the rest

ByRutvick Mehta
Apr 03, 2024 11:04 PM IST

Headlined by that effective forehand, Sinner possessed a complete game, if not necessarily flashy like his fellow young rival Alcaraz.

When Serena Williams tells you that she wishes she hit her forehand like yours, you are bound to be special. Jannik Sinner, at the receiving end of the American legend's compliment in Miami over the weekend, indeed is.

Jannik Sinner of Italy serves against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the men's final of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on March 31, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida.(Getty Images via AFP)
Jannik Sinner of Italy serves against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the men's final of the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on March 31, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida.(Getty Images via AFP)

So special, and superior to anybody else on the tour at the moment, that the Italian is 22-1 this season so far — his only defeat of 2024 coming against Carlos Alcaraz in the Indian Wells semi-finals — with triumphs at the Australian Open, ATP 500 Rotterdam and Miami Open Masters last Sunday. Stitch that to his terrific back end of 2023 — he won titles in Beijing and Vienna, made the final of the season-ending ATP Finals and led Italy to the Davis Cup crown — and you have a player widely acknowledged as the best going around among the men currently.

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Headlined by that effective forehand, Sinner possessed a complete game, if not necessarily flashy like his fellow young rival Alcaraz. Over the last few months, though, some key ingredients of that game have gotten finer and better with age, making the 22-year-old blaze through the season’s hard-court opening stretch winning 16 matches on the bounce to begin with.

Baseline play

Sinner’s baseline play has always been fairly solid, but it’s now stronger than ever before. In Miami, it was equally stinging. According to Tennis Data Innovations published on the ATP website, Sinner’s conversion score (percentage of points won when a player has been in attack during a point) stood above 80% until the quarter-finals, a yawning 15% more than the tour-level average.

Sinner had won 67% of his baseline battles in the first three matches in Miami, over 5% greater than the next best (Alexander Zverev). Sinner's clean ball-striking and control from the back of the court was evident in the business end of the tournament too. He dropped just 13 games in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, where he won 57% of the baseline points against Grigor Dimitrov. It wasn't just the famed forehand doing the talking. In the final, Sinner hit 57 backhand groundstrokes without zero unforced errors from it.

Short and sweet

As much as Sinner feels at home at the baseline, his growing presence in shorter rallies was striking at the Australian Open. In his first Grand Slam success story in Melbourne this year, the Italian was more lethal in rallies under four shots while also being in control of the longer ones.

As per data by Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers, 59% of Sinner's points in the seven matches in Melbourne were between 0-4 shots, 24% between 5-8 shots and 17% were over nine shots. Sinner won 112 more points than he lost (467-355) in points of 0-4 shots, a success ratio of 57% which was higher than points of 5-8 shots (54%) and 9+ shots (51%). Against Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals and final respectively, Sinner won 38 more points than he lost in the 0-4 shots rally length play, while surrendering more points than gaining in the 5-8 shots (-6) and over nine shots (-1) pattern.

Serve effectiveness

A tweaked service motion in the middle of last season has seemingly made a massive difference to the Sinner serve. It remains an area of improvement, but is a much better and stronger version of what it used to be.

As per the TDI Insights data on the ATP website, Sinner's serve effectiveness rose from 61.6% in January-June 2023 to 64.9% in June-November 2023. His service games won also jumped from 84% to 89% in the same period, and so did the break points saved (66% to 75%).

Pressure points

Sinner's game is refining, and so is his mentality. As per the stats on the ATP website, Sinner is only behind Djokovic among players to have won the most number of pressure points over the last 52 weeks. Pressure points include break points converted, break points saved and tiebreaks won.

Sinner sits second on the list with an ‘under pressure’ rating of 247.9, just behind 24-time Slam winner Djokovic (254.1). The standout stat is break points saved. Sinner's 73.4% is by far the highest among the top 10 players on that list.

“A lot of belief in the moment, hasn't he? Finish to the year last year helped him a lot. He's matured a lot in the past 12 months," Darren Cahill, one of Sinner's coaches, told the ATP.

Sinner's been utterly dominant in the first three months of this season. His big test, however, will come in the clay court swing over the next couple of months. Of his 13 titles, just one has come on clay (12 on hard), which isn't his preferred surface. But if he does manage to bring his season-opening level and form into the dirt, don't be surprised if the sizzling Sinner show continues.

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