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How Sinner's first ATP event foretold his rise to stardom

  • Posted: Jun 10, 2024

Jannik Sinner today climbed to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings, becoming the first Italian to achieve the feat. It is a historic moment for the 22-year-old, who is just the 29th player since the rankings’ inception in 1973 to climb to World No. 1.

Just more than five years ago, Sinner competed in an ATP Tour event for the first time. Looking back at that one event, the ATP 250 in Budapest, it was clear the Italian had a bright future.

It all began when tournament director Attila Richter received a phone call from the Italian Tennis and Padel Federation and Sinner’s team. They told him about the Italian’s talent and asked if the tournament would consider giving him a wild card.

Organisers had already allocated their three main draw wild cards — one for top seed Marin Cilic and two for Hungarians — so they decided to give the 17-year-old a chance with a qualifying wild card.

“This young guy comes over super polite, super nice, very calm and quiet,” Richter recalled. “Plays incredible tennis, wins in the qualies first round, I’m not even sure who he beat but I remember it was a surprise.”

Read’s Number Ones Series

Sinner had advanced past Lukas Rosol, known for his 2012 Wimbledon upset of Rafael Nadal. Two weeks after losing in the second round of an ATP Challenger Tour event, the Italian was a win away from successfully qualifying for his maiden tour-level main draw.

Those hopes were squashed when German Yannick Maden defeated him 6-3, 6-4.

“I just remember that I played a somewhat straightforward match, a bit more stable than him, but he was already playing pretty fast and somewhat consistent,” Maden recalled. “But it didn’t bother me that day too much. But it was so close. And I remember also my coach said afterwards that the guy hits the ball really clean.”


It was apparent to Maden, who reached a career-high No. 96 in the PIF ATP Rankings, that Sinner hit with a high average pace and consistently took the ball early. But it was not just the Italian’s physical tools that caught his attention.

“I remember even after beating him, the next day in the morning, I think I had off and we went off site somewhere to practise,” Maden recalled. “I saw him hitting again. So [a] really good, diligent worker, always a really nice guy, even after he really shot up in the rankings.”

Four players withdrew from the main draw due to injury or illness, so all four players who lost in the final round of qualifying were slotted into the field. Sinner took the place of Dusan Lajovic, who withdrew due to an elbow injury. The teen faced wild card Mate Valkusz, a former junior World No. 1.

“They played a pretty incredible first-round match with balls basically shooting from their racquets like a bullet,” Richter said. “Jannik wins in the end, so he not only gets his first wild card into a Tour event, but also wins his first Tour match in Budapest in 2019.”


The rising star triumphed 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 for his first ATP Tour main draw win. Then World No. 314, he would lose in the second round to World No. 33 Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-2. But his actions off court were even more memorable.

Richter had to leave just before the end of the match for an official meeting in the city. About an hour after departing site, he received a call from the players’ desk asking when he would return.

“I said, ‘Listen, I’ve got no idea’. I had to go to the ministry, I had a couple of other things going on. I said, ‘Maybe one, two hours. Why?’

“There’s a young guy here waiting for you.”

“I’m like, ‘Okay, who is it?’ They said it’s Jannik. ‘Okay, what does he want? Is there an issue?’”

“No, no issue at all.”

“He just wanted to talk to me. I’m like, ‘Okay. I can either talk to him over the phone or if he needs me in person, then I’ll probably be back in an hour’.”

Richter wondered what could be so important that Sinner wanted to meet him in person. Approximately one hour later upon his return to the venue, the tournament director went straight to the players’ desk to ask if the teen was still there.

“Jannik was sitting in the players’ lounge already with all his luggage and everything around him in one of the boxes, so I go up to him and say, ‘Hi, here I am, is there an issue?’ He stands up and says no issue at all. He just wanted to thank me for the wild card,” Richter said. “That sort of already then gave me the impression not only seeing him playing tennis, but also it gives you that feeling that you have with Jannik also today — what a really, really nice, nice guy he is, how good he was raised and his manners. So he actually sat there for an hour and a half, waiting for the tournament director.”

A couple of years after the tournament, Richter was at Roland Garros with his son. They were in the lobby of their hotel when he noticed Sinner sitting by himself. The Italian remembered the tournament director and they enjoyed a quick conversation. “He said for him, it was and still is important to remember where he came from,” Richter recalled.

“I remember then thinking to myself, ‘Well, if he becomes a good player, he’ll be a superstar’, because it’s just the personality that he has,” he added. “I always had that memory and I always told a lot of other players since, mainly juniors and up-and-coming players the story about what a difference it makes if you’re not only a good player in terms of playing tennis but also a good person and always being humble and respectful to where you came from.”


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Jannik Sinner: The flying fox who climbed to the very top

  • Posted: Jun 10, 2024

In the latest profile of the 29 players to rise to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings, highlights Italy’s Jannik Sinner. View Full List.

First week at No. 1: 10 June 2024
Total weeks at No. 1:

At World No. 1
Sinner will need to settle quickly into his newfound status as World No. 1. Three of the Italian’s closest rivals in the PIF ATP Rankings — Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev — are all former custodians of the top spot in men’s tennis, and Sinner will know he has to push for further success if he wants to keep them at bay for long.

Grand Slam Highlights
After reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals in his 2020 Paris debut, Sinner showed his staying power with a consistent 2022 Grand Slam season. That year, he reached the quarters at three majors and the fourth round in France. Two heartbreaking defeats — five-setters against eventual champions Djokovic at Wimbledon and Alcaraz at the US Open — steeled the Italian for future success.

He reached the Wimbledon semis in 2023, again losing to Djokovic, and suffered another five-set US Open exit in the fourth round against Alexander Zverev. That disappointment set the stage for a scintillating run to close the ’23 season, which Sinner carried into 2024 to win his maiden major at the Australian Open.

After dominating 10-time Melbourne champion Djokovic in the semis Down Under, the Italian battled back from two sets down against Medvedev for Grand Slam glory. He then backed up his run by reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals, a run during which his ascent to World No. 1 was guaranteed.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/01/28/14/56/sinner-australian-open-2024-final-press-conference.jpg” style=”width: 100%;” alt=”Jannik Sinner” />

Sinner won his maiden major title at the 2024 Australian Open. Photo Credit: William West/AFP via Getty Images
Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Sinner made his Nitto ATP Finals debut on home soil in Turin as an alternate in 2021, replacing countryman Matteo Berrettini midway through the group stage and picking up a round-robin win against Hubert Hurkacz.

Returning to Turin in 2023 in some of the best form of his life, Sinner advanced to the final with a perfect record, beating Djokovic in a third-set tie-break in the group stage and scoring a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 result against Medvedev in the semis. While Djokovic won the pair’s rematch in the final, Sinner’s performance that week in front of his home fans boosted his confidence to new heights and set the stage for a dominant start to the 2024 season — a stretch that led him to rise to the top of the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time.

ATP Masters 1000 Highlights
Sinner’s first ATP Masters 1000 final came in just his third main-draw appearance at that prestigious level, when he finished runner-up to Hurkacz in Miami in 2021 at the age of 19. After reaching three quarter-finals in 2022 (Miami, Monte-Carlo, Rome), the Italian established himself as a consistent title challenger on the sport’s biggest stages by reaching the final weekend at the first three Masters 1000s of 2023.

A second Miami final run was sandwiched between semi-final showings in Indian Wells and Monte-Carlo, before Sinner’s breakthrough in Toronto later that season. The Italian lost just one set on the way to what was the biggest title of his career, dominating Alex de Minaur in the final.

He made an even stronger start to the Masters 1000 calendar in 2024, putting himself in contention for World No. 1 by winning the Miami title in his third final attempt. He also returned to the semis at both Indian Wells and Monte-Carlo before making the quarters in Madrid.

Biggest Rivalries
In what has the potential to be one of the defining Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalries in tennis history, Sinner and Alcaraz have already squared off nine times in their young careers. Alcaraz currently leads 5-4 following a series of blockbuster clashes. After one meeting on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2019, the then-teenagers began lighting up the ATP Tour from 2021, when Alcaraz prevailed in straight sets in their first tour-level match at the Rolex Paris Masters.

The rivalry has since developed into a ‘must-watch’, with the two players’ desire to play fast-paced, attacking tennis contributing to some of the best displays of shotmaking the game has seen. Their 2022 US Open quarter-final, won by Alcaraz, remains one of the most gripping matches in recent memory. Sinner defeated the Spaniard in the 2022 Umag final and two semi-finals.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/06/04/11/07/alcaraz-sinner-us-open-2022-rally.jpg” style=”width: 100%;” alt=”Carlos Alcaraz/Jannik Sinner” />

Alcaraz and Sinner in action during their five-set quarter-final epic at the 2022 US Open. Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
After difficult starts to his rivalries with Djokovic and Medvedev, Sinner has caught up rapidly in his respective Lexus ATP Head2Head series with the pair. He has won three of his four past meetings with Djokovic to rally to 3-4 against the Serbian great, while he responded to six opening defeats in his rivalry with Medvedev by winning the next five, including the final of the 2024 Australian Open.

Italy is a tennis nation with great history, but Sinner’s early success has lifted the sport to new heights in his home country. He is the first Italian man to reach No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings, surpassing Adriano Panatta’s career-high of World No. 4 in 1976. At 22 years old, Sinner owns a record for titles among Italian men with 13.

The feeling was palpable among fans watching his 2023 Nitto ATP Finals run — it was clear they were watching a bona fide homegrown star. Despite defeat to Djokovic in the championship match in Turin, Sinner responded six days later in the Davis Cup semi-finals by saving three match points to notch his second Lexus ATP Head2Head win against the Serbian. The Italian went on to lead his country to its first Davis Cup crown since 1976.


Memorable Moment

Sinner’s stunning form across the second half of 2023, when he won 27 of his final 31 tour-level matches of the season, raised the possibility of 2024 becoming ‘the year of Sinner’. That has proven true. 

Competing at the Australian Open as the No. 4 in the PIF ATP Rankings, Sinner did not drop a set en route to the semi-finals, where he soundly defeating record-10-time champion Djokovic in four sets. Even after falling two-sets-to-love down to Medvedev in the championship match in Melbourne, there remained a steely resolve to the 22-year-old’s demeanour. He roared back for a 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory to seal his maiden major trophy and snap Italy’s 38-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion.

Alcaraz on Sinner

“Jannik obviously is a really great player with great shots. I would say we’re going to have a great rivalry over the years. We are playing in the best tournaments in the world. It’s not over. We are going to play a lot of great matches.”

Sinner on Sinner

“I always think and believe that you live in moments. [Winning the Australian Open] was a positive and special moment. But then after you have to do it over again. You have to wake up in the morning and work again. And if you lose, you live this negative moment, but you don’t live your career with this. I have maybe a little bit different point of view of how to celebrate these kinds of things.”


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Alcaraz surges, Sinner maintains lead in PIF ATP Live Race To Turin

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2024

Carlos Alcaraz began Roland Garros in seventh place in the PIF ATP Live Race To Turin. The Spaniard occupied a qualifying position for this year’s Nitto ATP Finals, to be played from 10-17 November in Turin, but was far from the top of the standings.

The 21-year-old changed that over the course of the past fortnight by winning the Roland Garros title. Alcaraz is now third in the Live Race and within 500 points of the player he defeated in Sunday’s final, Alexander Zverev.

PIF ATP Live Race To Turin

Player   Points
 1) Jannik Sinner  5,300
 2) Alexander Zverev  4,385
 3) Carlos Alcaraz  3,900
 4) Casper Ruud  3,435
 5) Daniil Medvedev  3,150
 6) Stefanos Tsitsipas  2,465
 7) Alex de Minaur  2,255
 8) Andrey Rublev  2,220

Alcaraz is now in good position to qualify for the season finale for the third consecutive year (he did not play in 2022 due to injury). 

Jannik Sinner, who lost to Alcaraz in five sets in the Roland Garros semi-finals, maintains his lead in the Live Race. The Italian, who on Monday climbs to No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time, owns a 915-point advantage over second-placed Zverev in the Live Race.

Sinner has competed twice in the Nitto ATP Finals (once as an alternate, in 2021) and is well on his way to another appearance at the year-end championships, where a year ago he thrilled his home crowd with a memorable run to the final.


Seven of the eight players currently in qualifying position have played in the Nitto ATP Finals before. The only exception is seventh-placed Alex de Minaur, who is attempting to earn his place in Turin for the first time.

The top eight in the Live Race are Sinner, Zverev, Alcaraz, Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, De Minaur and Andrey Rublev.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has won the event a record seven times, is currently on the outside looking in. The Serbian is in 10th place, 360 points behind Rublev, who is eighth with 2,220 points. Djokovic withdrew ahead of his Paris quarter-final due to a meniscus tear in his right knee.

Another player to watch is Grigor Dimitrov, the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion. The resurgent Bulgarian is in ninth place with 2,075 points.


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Alcaraz on Roland Garros triumph: 'It was something I dreamed of since I started playing'

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2024

Carlos Alcaraz made more history on Sunday at Roland Garros, where aged 21 he became the second-youngest champion at the clay-court major since 2000. Alcaraz defeated Alexander Zverev in five sets in the final and is the seventh Spanish man to triumph at the event.

Alcaraz revealed he achieved a childhood dream by winning in the French capital.

“Winning a Grand Slam is always special. Winning your first in every Grand Slam is always super special. But in Roland Garros, knowing all the Spanish players who have won this tournament and being able to put my name on that amazing list is something unbelievable,” Alcaraz said. “[It is] something that I dreamed about being in this position since I started playing tennis, since I was five, six years old. So it’s a great, great feeling.”

Alcaraz won his maiden major at the US Open on hard court in 2022, before he triumphed on grass at Wimbledon last year. By winning Roland Garros on clay, he has become the youngest man to earn a major trophy on all three surfaces.

The No. 2 player in the PIF ATP Live Rankings was asked about how he has acclimatised to all three surfaces so quickly in his career.

“I grew up playing on clay court, but most tournaments of the Tour it is on hard court. So I had to practise more on hard court, doing the preseason on hard court. So I started to feel more comfortable moving, hitting my shots playing on hard court, but I think my game suits very well on every surface because I practice it,” Alcaraz said.

“With drop shots, my volley, I wanted to develop my style of being aggressive all the time. Practising the defence and all that stuff, but my main goal is being aggressive as much as I can. So I think on grass it is pretty well or I have to do it on grass almost every time, but in all surfaces, I think it’s a pretty good thing.”


Three-time major champ Alcaraz dropped just one set en route to the semi-finals in Paris before he clawed past Jannik Sinner and Zverev in five sets to win his 14th tour-level title and eighth on clay. The Spaniard holds an 11-1 record in fifth sets, often producing his best under pressure.

“I know that when I’m playing a fifth set you have to give everything and you have to give your heart,” Alcaraz said. “I mean, in those moments, it’s where the top players give their best tennis. So as I said many times, I wanted to be one of the best tennis players in the world, so I have to give extra in those moments in the fifth set, I have to show the opponent that I am fresh. Like we are playing the first game of the match.”

Alcaraz arrived in the French capital having missed the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome due to a right forearm injury. Despite playing with strapping in Paris, the 21-year-old looked largely comfortable throughout his seven matches.

Alcaraz is pleased the work he put in with his team, including coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, paid off.

“I said before the tournament, I consider myself a player who doesn’t need too many matches on my back just to get at 100 per cent. I had a really good week here in Paris, practising with good players. I felt really well playing sets, moving, hitting my shots before the tournament began,” Alcaraz said. “Obviously every match that I have played, I was getting better and better.

“All the work that I put every day before coming here and every day here has been really good work with my team that helped me to get 100 per cent physically, mentally, and hitting good shots and putting a good level on the court. So I think that’s why I performed at my best at the end of the tournament.”


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Alcaraz rallies past Zverev for first Roland Garros title

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2024

Another major triumph, another all-time record achieved in the young career of Carlos Alcaraz.

The third seed on Sunday outlasted Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to lift the trophy at Roland Garros. With his four-hour, 19-minute win on the Paris clay, the 21-year-old Alcaraz became the youngest player to capture a Grand Slam title on three different surfaces after his triumphs on hard courts at the 2022 US Open and grass at 2023 Wimbledon.

Just as he did against Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals, Alcaraz kept cool after falling two-sets-to-one behind to secure a gritty victory against Zverev. The Spaniard, who arrived at Roland Garros having not competed for three weeks due to a right arm injury, raised his level to win 12 of the final 15 games and secure a major crown for the third consecutive season.

As well as his three Grand Slam titles, Alcaraz has won 11 ATP Tour crowns and in 2022 became the youngest No. 1 in PIF ATP Rankings history. Although he did not consistently produce the sort of brilliant, dazzling tennis that helped him reach those milestones against Zverev, he was clinical under pressure to overhaul the German and maintain his perfect record in Grand Slam finals.

Alcaraz and Zverev both tried to mix up their play to keep their opponent on his toes, but it was Alcaraz’s ability to produce big points at big moments that ultimately proved crucial. The Spaniard converted nine of 16 break points he earned, according to Infosys Stats, with Zverev converting just six of 23.

A pivotal moment in the deciding set came with Alcaraz serving at 2-1, 15/40. The Spaniard sent down a second serve that was called out, but the chair umpire checked the mark and called it in. From nearly double-faulting to relinquish serve, Alcaraz went on to hold serve and consolidate his early fifth-set service break.

Alcaraz, who is now 52-10 in Grand Slam matches, is the seventh Spaniard to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. That list includes his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won the Paris major in 2003.


Alcaraz and Zverev’s ability to stay the course physically was tested throughout the match. The No. 4 in the PIF ATP Rankings Zverev spent 19 hours and 27 minutes on court en route to Sunday’s clash, the longest road to a Roland Garros final since the start of recorded match times in 1991. Yet even in defeat, the German often appeared the fresher of the two players, with Alcaraz drinking pickle juice during changeovers to ward off cramp and receiving treatment to his thigh at 4-1 in the fourth set.

Alcaraz clinched the opening set by locking in on return after a cagey start in which both players dropped their opening service game. Zverev began his second major final by serving back-to-back double faults, prompting him to immediately change his racquet. He was nonetheless broken three times in the opening set, and also had to fend off two break points to hold in another of his service games at 2-4.

Despite falling behind, Zverev kept his focus, and an improved serving performance from the fourth seed helped him halt Alcaraz’s charge on return. The German landed 83 per cent (20/24) of his first serves in the second set and won 80 per cent (16/20) of those points, according to Infosys Stats.

After winning five straight games to claim the second set, Zverev then turned the final further on its head by reeling off another five consecutive games to claim the third. Alcaraz had served for the set at 5-2, but he soon found himself two-sets-to-one down as Zverev found another hot streak.

Despite his opponent being just one set away from victory, Alcaraz did not panic. He made a rapid start to the fourth set by winning the opening four games, before saving all five break points he faced in the decider to clinch his win.


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