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Jannik Sinner: How has he gone from champion skier to Australian Open, Rotterdam and Miami winner?


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Lindsey Vonn labelled Jannik Sinner as the “best skier to win a Grand Slam” after his Australian Open triumph. It seems the Italian’s success in Melbourne was almost written in the stars.

Pressure is a privilege for Sinner, who grew up in northern Italy in the predominantly German-speaking region of South Tyrol. His parents worked in a ski lodge where his father was a chef and his mother was a waitress.

Nicknamed ‘Jan the Fox’ since he was a school kid, he became a national giant slalom skiing championship at the age of eight before switching his focus to tennis at 13.

He won multiple ATP Challenger Tour titles but his breakthrough came when he won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in 2019.

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A year later he reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the French Open and in 2021, became the youngest ATP 500 champion in Washington. He was a Masters 1000 runner-up at the Miami Open, and was the first player born in the 2000s to enter the top 10.

A US Open quarter-final followed in 2022 and then a Wimbledon semi-final, but all the pieces of the puzzle came together when he reached the ATP Finals championship match at home in Turin and then led Italy to the Davis Cup title on consecutive weeks in November.

At this year’s Australian Open, he ended Novak Djokovic’s six-year stranglehold in the last four before fighting back from two sets down to defeat Daniil Medvedev to win his maiden Grand Slam title.

Sinner’s father recently started traveling with his son to some tournaments but the family, which also includes Sinner’s adopted brother Marc, did not go to Australia.

“I wish that everyone could have my parents because they always let me choose whatever I wanted to,” Sinner said during his acceptance speech. “Even when I was younger I [played] also some other sports and they never put pressure on myself and I wish that this freedom is possible for as many young kids as possible.”

Italian Adriano Panatta smiles after the quarter final match of the French Open Tennis Tournament in Paris. He won over Swedish Bjorn Borg, 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, at the Roland Garros Stadium. (AP-PHOTO/stf/Michel Lipchitz) 09.06.1976
Italians fondly remember 1976. It was the year Adriano Panatta defeated Bjorn Borg en route to winning the French Open

No Italian man had won a Grand Slam singles title in nearly a half-century – since Adriano Panatta raised the French Open trophy in 1976 – but now football-mad Italy is obsessed with Sinner.

“He’s an exceptional kid and one of the best export products we have,” Panatta told Italian radio. “He will surely win many Slams. He’s got a mix of great skill, great desire and great character. Plus, he knows how to handle himself in difficult moments. I’ve rarely seen a player like that.”

Not since Valentino Rossi was dominating motorcycle racing, Marco Pantani was the world’s top cyclist or Alberto Tomba was winning Olympic skiing medals has a non-football athlete gained so much attention in Italy.

Sinner’s fan club, the ‘Carota Boys’, were in Melbourne for the start of the Australian Open.

Having returned to Italy, they watched the final on a jumbo screen in Turin together with more than 1,000 orange-clad fans.

The carrot theme is partly a tribute to Sinner’s red-orange hair and how he ate carrots instead of the more common banana during a changeover at a tournament in Vienna in 2019.

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A look at how and why the ‘Carota Boys’ formed their bizarre group and the moment they met the man that inspired them, Jannik Sinner

Tennis’ youth revolution

Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz at the Australian Open
Sinner and Alcaraz are leading the young generation of tennis stars

Earmarked as the man most likely to lead the game into its next era alongside Carlos Alcaraz, Sinner has decisively shown that he can be a force for years to come.

Between them they have now won three of the last six Grand Slams, with Djokovic winning the rest.

“There is always pressure, but the pressure is something good. I like to dance in the pressure storm. Because that’s where most of the time I bring out my best tennis,” said Sinner.

His coach Darren Cahill feels the 22-year-old is ready to lead the revolution with the hierarchy most certainly changing.

Cahill, who previously worked with Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep, has no doubt Alcaraz’s success in New York and Wimbledon has inspired his man.

“Hell, yeah, absolutely,” he said. “There’s no question seeing the young players come through and having success drives each and every one of them. Not just Jannik. They all desire it.

“Carlos has trailblazed for a lot of young players. We’re thankful for that. He’s a delight to watch play, and a delight to watch him on court. We aspire to be as good as him and hopefully one day be better than him but, at the moment we’re chasing Carlos, and we’ll continue to do that.”

And after winning the Miami Open, coach Cahill says the new world number two was loving life but also staying grounded.

“He appreciates every single moment that is happening to him, but he’s also got his feet on the ground knowing it’s just a sport, it’s just a tennis match,” Cahill said.

“While he’s professional in everything he does, he enjoys his life. He’s a normal 22-year-old kid. There’s a lot to learn from him, a lot of good to learn from both him and Carlos. I think they’re very similar in many, many ways.

“That’s why I think tennis is in great hands at the moment with the likes of those two and many other players coming through that are going to carry the torch through a generation we have been so fortunate to sit through the last 20 years.

“It’s important to have these types of sports people coming through.”

Standard stuff for Sinner

Jannik Sinner is the first player to claim the men’s singles titles at the Australian Open and Miami Open in a calendar year since Roger Federer (2017)

Sinner split from long-term coach Riccardo Piatti in the summer of 2022 and hired renowned Australian Cahill and countryman Simone Vagnozzi.

The combination is certainly working, and Cahill added: “We believe in Jannik, we always have. He’s a special young kid. Even the way he hits the ball, it just sounds special.

“When you hit the ball the way he does, when you want to improve the way he does, when you move the way he does, he’s going to have success at some point.

“Our job as coaches is to try to fast-track that as quickly as possible and get him to where he wants to go quickly so he can have a long window at the top of the game.

“He’s been doing well. He’s absorbing everything and trying new things on the court, and he just wants to get better. I’m sure after this sinks in he won’t settle. He’ll never settle.”

Pope Francis is presented with a tennis racket by the President of the Italian Tennis Federation Angelo Binaghi, right, during an audience with athletes in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Friday, May 8, 2015. Pope Francis congratulated Italy on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, after tennis player Jannik Sinner became the country's first man to win a Grand Slam singles title, the Australian Open, in nearly a half century. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
Pope Francis has hailed Sinner after he became the country’s first man to win a Grand Slam singles title in nearly a half century

Kyrgios: He’s going to be unstoppable

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Nick Kyrgios commentates on the men’s Australian Open final between Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev. Sky TV subscribers get discovery+ Standard at no extra cost

Sinner is popular with his peers, who have long known the explosive power contained in his wiry frame.

Speaking on Eurosport, Australian star Nick Kyrgios said: “Jannik is an incredibly nice guy in the locker room. You always see him super professional, but he’s like a sponge.

“Ever since he came on tour that first match he played against Steve Johnson in Rome, the locker room was watching and thinking, ‘2ho is this skinny guy who has the crowd in the palm of his hand?’. We could already see the ball-striking.

“This is going to be such a big leapfrog to him, I think we’re going to see him win plenty more Slams in the next couple of years. Now he’s got this one, he’s going to be unstoppable.”

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Sinner spoke to Martina Navratilova, Annabel Croft and Gigi Salmon after winning in Miami to become the new world No 2

How to watch play on Sky Sports Tennis

The stars of tennis will appear on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel every day
The stars of tennis will appear on the new Sky Sports Tennis channel every day

Sky Sports has confirmed a new home for tennis in the UK and Ireland, with Sky Sports Tennis set to launch on Sky and NOW from February 11, making tennis content available all day, every day for fans.

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Non-Sky subscribers can stream live matches with a NOW Sports Day and Month Membership, via Sky Sports Tennis, Sky Sports Arena, and Sky Sports Mix channels.

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Tim Henman, Laura Robson and Katie Boulter believe the new Sky Sports five-year partnerships with the ATP and WTA to show all-year-round tennis will help grow the sport in the UK

For further access, fans will also be able to follow their favourite players and gain deeper insights from both Tours via Sky Sports News, the Sky Sports app, on SkySports.com and via Sky Sports social channels.

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