Sinner finds way to heaven in Aus Open comeback
IT looked bleak for the best part of two and a half sets, but Italian fourth seed Jannik Sinner never gave in, and forced his way back from a two sets to love deficit to knock off third seed Daniil Medvedev and win his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last night.
In an action-packed men’s singles final, Sinner went in as strong favourite having spent far less time on court, and was coming off an incredible four-set victory over world number one and 10-time Australian Open winner, Novak Djokovic. The Italian only dropped his first set – a tiebreaker no less – in that match, having previously won the first 17 sets – and 19 of 19 – at Melbourne Park.
Medvedev on the other hand became the first player to come back from two sets to love down to win, and reach an Australian Open final. After having to do it in the second round against rising Finn, Emil Ruusuvuori, the Russian did it in Friday night’s blockbuster semi against German Alexander Zverev. Which is why last night’s result was ironically cruel.
The third seed shocked the crowd by playing a completely different style to normal, standing closer to the baseline and covering the court well with plenty of aggressive approach shots. While Sinner had come in expecting long baseline rallies, he was caught off guard with Medvedev instead favouring an all-court approach.
Given Sinner had beaten Medvedev in the last three meetings, the third seed was trying something different to throw the young Italian off his game. It worked a treat across the opening two sets as Medvedev raced out to a 6-3 6-3 lead. In the first set, he only dropped three points off his first serve while serving at 86 per cent, while producing six aces among 14 winners.
In the second set, Medvedev only dropped the two points off his first serve, and though his efficiency dropped to just 50 per cent, he still hit the nine winners with only eight unforced errors. Djokovic would have looked on with puzzlement having not been able to set up a break point on Sinner’s serve in the semi-final – the first time in a completed match the Serbian star had been unable to do so – and seeing the unorthodox Russian break in just the third game, 12 minutes into the match.
By the end of the second set, an hour and 25 minutes had passed, and the Russian was now one set away from Australian Open glory. For the first time in a Grand Slam final, Medvedev was playing someone not named Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, and it was his sixth time at this stage of a major. Against a player in his first ever Grand Slam final, Medvedev had Sinner – who looked near unbeatable most of the tournament – on the ropes.
However there was one elephant in the room, and it came in the form of the 2022 Australian Open final. Few could forget Nadal’s incredible come-from-behind win in five hours and 24 minutes, but the critical takeaway was the fact Medvedev was two sets to love up at 4-4 in the third set, before Nadal broke him.
Then, as if in a cruel twist when serving to go 5-5 against Sinner, the Russian made three consecutive forehand unforced errors and in the blink of an eye, the Italian had won the set. Those whispers in the back of Medvedev fans heads remembering that fateful night against Nadal started to get louder. As if Sinner could hear them, he started to gain confidence.
The man who had largely been less aggressive that his usual self throughout the tournament stepped up to the plate. Sinner hit four aces among eight winners for only seven unforced errors and only dropped the two points off his first serve. Medvedev was similar, only losing the three points off his first serve, but adding just one ace and seven winners, contrasting to 15 unforced errors.
The fourth set was a carbon copy of the third, with Medvedev’s legs starting to give way and Sinner’s confidence rising. Once it got to 5-4, Medvedev again slipped in the final three points after having a game point, broken by Sinner who took the fourth 6-4 in style after three hours and six minutes on court.
From there, it was evident the match was Sinner’s for the taking as he had barely broken a sweat, while Medvedev – who had spent more than 20 hours on court – was labouring. He tried to win cheap points, he went for serve-volleys, he tried everything in his extensive kit, but it would not be enough because in the sixth game, the Italian broke the third seed and then held comfortably to go 5-2 up.
To Medvedev’s credit, he forced Sinner to serve out the match by holding in the eighth game, and though the Russian managed to get him to 30-30 in the ninth – with some wondering if there could be a twist – Sinner stepped up again with a brutal display of power. On his first Championship point, Sinner hit a trademark down the line forehand to win it all, collapsing to the ground after winning 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-3 in three hours and 44 minutes.
Sinner became the first Italian to win an Australian Open singles title in the Open era, and the youngest player from his nation to secure a major trophy.
“It’s a huge tournament for me,” Sinner said. “It’s the ‘Happy Slam’, it’s a very, very nice place to be.
“We are trying to get better every day, even during the tournament we try to get stronger, trying to understand every situation a little bit better, and I’m so glad to have you there supporting me, understanding me, which sometimes it’s not easy because I am a little bit young sometimes,” he said with a smile.”
Medvedev, who was all too familiar with the heartache of not only losing a grand slam – his fifth loss in sixth tries – but also from two sets to love up, was gracious in defeat.
“I want to congratulate Jannik, today you showed again why you deserve it, you fought to the end, you managed to raise your level,” Medvedev said.
“Probably that’s not your last Grand Slam, but I hope I can try to get the next one if we play in a final.”