Twenty-two-year old Jannik Sinner landed the Grand Slam title he has long promised with an extraordinary fightback to beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final.
Italy’s Sinner, trailed by two sets before recovering to win 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-3 in his first major final.
Fourth seed Sinner initially could not cope with the Russian’s pace but imposed himself as the contest wore on.
It was another bitter experience for Medvedev, who also blew a two-set lead against Rafael Nadal in the 2022 final.
A first-time champion in Melbourne was guaranteed after Sinner knocked out 10-time winner Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
Sinner ensured his name goes on the trophy – fulfilling the talent that many had predicted would lead to a Grand Slam triumph – after an epic match lasting almost four hours.
“It feels great. I just have to process it, I guess, how it feels the first time,” Sinner told Australia’s Channel Nine.
“It has been a hell of a journey even if I’m still only 22.”
Third seed Medvedev, 27, has lost five of his six major finals, including ones against Djokovic in 2021 and Nadal in 2022 at Melbourne Park.
Sinner clinched victory with a forehand winner down the line, falling to his back on the baseline in celebration.
- Jannik Sinner, the youngest player to win the Australian Open men’s title since Novak Djokovic in 2008, lying on his back on the baseline in celebration
Medvedev trudged around the net to offer his congratulations before Sinner thumped his heart on his way to celebrate with his team.
Looking disconsolate as he tried to process the loss while sitting on his chair, Medvedev managed to give a thumbs-up to the crowd when they applauded his efforts.
“It hurts to lose in the final but probably being in the final is better than losing before,” said Medvedev, who set a record for the most time spent on court at a Grand Slam tournament with 24 hours and 17 minutes.
“I always want to win and I guess I have to try harder next time.”
Sinner was brought to the forefront of conversation when discussing Grand Slam champions in 2024 following a stunning end to last season.
A ceiling-breaking ATP 1000 title in Toronto, significant wins over the very best players and inspiring Italy to Davis Cup victory all increased the belief he would go on to greater things this season.
Sinner has managed to do exactly that in the first major tournament of the year.
Throughout this fortnight Sinner has shown an added confidence that this could be his time and did not drop a set until facing Djokovic.
By taking out Djokovic, the Italian answered the question which had long been posed: why could the younger generation not topple the Serb in Melbourne?
Once he managed that, Sinner’s next challenge was backing up a memorable victory with another against Medvedev.
Sinner had insisted he knew the job was not finished by beating Djokovic.
He demonstrated his mental fortitude by refusing to accept he was beaten – even in such a perilous position – and continued to trust in his powerful groundstrokes.
With Medvedev’s stamina fading, Sinner picked up the pace and accuracy of his returns, cracking 28 winners in the final two sets.
“The match was going so fast in the first two sets,” said Sinner, who was backed by a large Italian contingent on Rod Laver Arena.
“I had zero chance to play at this level but I was looking for just the small chances. I managed to break him and then win one set at a time, one game at a time.”
So many players with the experience of a Grand Slam final have talked about how different the occasion can be, particularly if it is the first time, and potentially overwhelming.
Medvedev, whose sole major triumph came at the 2021 US Open, hoped his greater experience in these situations would tell against Sinner.
While Sinner did not appear to be hampered by nerves, Medvedev simply suffocated him with an attacking approach in the opening two sets which proved to be a smart strategy.
Ultimately, the change in his fortunes boiled down to endurance – and perhaps some mental scars from the defeat by Nadal on the same stage.
Medvedev had spent almost six hours more on court over the Melbourne fortnight than his younger opponent.
Three times he had to outlast his opponents in five-set matches and twice fought back from two sets down, including a remarkable semi-final against German sixth seed Alexander Zverev.
Before the final, Medvedev spoke about Sinner having the physical advantage and knew he would have to make a fast start to maximise his chances.
However, he was unable to maintain the ferocity and depth of his groundstrokes, looking increasingly weary as Sinner fought back.
“I got a little tired physically. But I was trying to be proud of myself and I am,” said Medvedev.
“I was fighting, I was running. I thought ‘if tomorrow I don’t feel my legs it doesn’t matter, I’m going to try everything I can until the last point’ and I did it.
Another five-setter on Sunday meant Medvedev surpassed the previous record for time spent on court at a single Grand Slam tournament, which had been the 23 hours and 39 minutes Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz spent on his way to his 2022 US Open title.
After losing to Nadal, Medvedev started his post-match news conference with a sombre monologue where he said he had “stopped dreaming”.
This time, he struck a more upbeat tone and even managed to joke about his time on court.
“At least I got a record in something. I’m in the history books,” he said.
- Source: BBC