MILAN (AP) — Jannik Sinner will be looking to serve up the perfect dish next season.
After Saturday’s victory over third-ranked Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals of the ATP Finals, Sinner compared his improvement this year to cooking “pasta pomodoro” (pasta with tomato sauce).
“Everything is part of a learning curve,” the Italian said. “When each of us makes pasta pomodoro for the first time you say ‘it’s missing salt,’ and you add more salt, then you say ‘it’s missing fresh tomatoes’ and you put them in, then you add in basil.
“So you add ingredients to always improve more. But you also have to be careful you don’t add too much otherwise the dish doesn’t become better. You need to find the right balance. My dish is also not perfect yet, I can improve.”
Sinner lacked the perfect ingredients to beat Novak Djokovic in the final, however. The top-ranked Serb won 6-3, 6-3 and earned a record seventh victory at the season-ending tournament for the year’s top eight players.
That was Sinner’s first loss at this year’s ATP Finals — ending a run of four wins that included a first-ever victory over Djokovic.
Two wins in a week over the 24-time Grand Slam champion would have capped a dream tournament for Sinner and an impressive season that has seen him rise from No. 15 at the end of last year to No. 4.
That is the highest an Italian man has been ranked since Adriano Panatta nearly a half-century ago.
“When we started the year I was one player and now I’m another,” Sinner said Sunday.
Sinner was the first Italian to reach the semifinals — and subsequently the final — at the prestigious tournament and his win over the third-ranked Medvedev also saw him become the Italian man with the most victories over top-five players (10), breaking Panatta’s record.
“There are many positive things, to be honest,” Sinner said about his season. “I think, especially the second half of the year, mentally I was much, much stronger. I was not complaining so much on court when things were going in the wrong way.
“One of the things where I can be really happy is that I played many, many important matches in the biggest stadiums we have throughout the whole year.”
Sinner racked up 61 wins with only 15 losses this season, with only Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz earning up more victories, and also won four ATP Tour titles.
The 22-year-old Italian lived up to his billing as the poster boy last week and was fervently backed by a passionate crowd in Turin — including the ever-present, orange-clad “Carota Boys.”
As the week went on, “Sinner-mania” spread from the packed arena in Turin — where extra tickets were released for the weekend — to the rest of Italy. The final was the most watched tennis match of all time on Italian television, with 6.7 million viewers.
Several bars were jammed with fans watching the match on big screens, something normally seen only for major soccer matches, and it was talk of tennis that peppered the air all weekend.
Indeed, the atmosphere inside the Pala Alpitour was more akin to a soccer match at times as fans serenaded Sinner with: “Ole, Ole, Ole Ole, Sin-ner, Sin-ner.”
The adulation Sinner has received is a far cry from the criticism that came his way less than two months ago when he was lambasted by the media and former tennis players for withdrawing from the Davis Cup, saying he hadn’t recovered in time from tournaments in North America, including the U.S. Open.
Sinner will be part of the Italy squad for the Davis Cup Finals this week in Malaga, where he could face Djokovic if both countries reach the semifinals.
“I want to also say well done to him for not having listened to all the useless criticism he received when he missed the Davis Cup … unproductive criticism that came from people who don’t know how to give high-level performances,” Sinner’s former coach, Riccardo Piatti, said in a post on Instagram congratulating the youngster on Monday.
“Jannik: a week like this at the Finals, the future Slams you will win and the world ranking are the best way to show your attachment to Italy and make all Italians proud to have someone like you among the best athletes in the world.”
After a taste of a big-time final, Sinner will be targeting more next year. He has never gone beyond the semifinals of a Grand Slam, reaching the final four for the first time this year at Wimbledon — where he lost to eventual winner Carlos Alcaraz.
One person who has some experience in Grand Slam finals is confident it is just a matter of time.
“He’s the Italian No. 1, he’s made tennis history in this country, he’s someone who will certainly get to No. 1 in the world and win Grand Slams,” said Djokovic, who reached all four Grand Slam finals this year.
“I’m not the only one saying it, many people are, because he has potential, he has talent, he has dedication,” Djokovic said. “He’s a great boy, with great family values. I wish him great things — but when he’s not playing against me.”
AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis