Jannik Sinner pulled off one of the great comebacks of the Australian Open as he recovered from a set down to claim his maiden title at grand slam level.
He started playing better. I got a little bit tired. Serve went a little bit worse. So, the momentum changed, and I really tried in my mind to change it back again, because that’s what tennis is about. But I didn’t manage to do it, and that’s why he’s the winner and has the trophy Daniil Medvedev
He was always in the running but never a title favourite until he dethroned the defending champion Novak Djokovic who was going for his 11th title in Melbourne and a record setting 25th grand slam.
That semi-final win certainly improved his credentials and in the final itself he showed the courage and the resolve which makes a champion for the 22-year-old Italian looked down-and-out in the opening sets as Daniil Medvedev opened the match in an aggressive manner to roar into a commanding lead.
In betting terms, the 27-Year-old Russian was odds-on favourite to pocket his second grand slam and his first Australian Open crown at what was his third attempt in the championship round in Melbourne.
But seemingly against all the odds, Sinner played his way back into the match and turned the tide in his favour by claiming the next three sets to secure an epic 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-3 victory after three-hours and 44-minutes of thrilling and entertaining play.
Whether fatigue played a part in Medvedev’s collapse is not certain for his aggressive play slowly changed as he reverted to a more defensive approach which allowed Sinner to work his way back in.
Medvedev had spent an incredible 20-hours and 33-minutes on court which included three five-setters, to reach the final while Sinner had dropped just one set on his journey to the last two. In fact, Medvedev leaves Melbourne having set one record, namely for the most time spent on court in a single grand slam which by the end of the final, stood at 24-hours and 14-minutes!
And it was a day for firsts with Sinner not only collecting his first slam title, but the first Italian male to do so at the AO which, for the first time, notched up 1.1million spectators over the 15-days of play, another first.
Sinner is only the third Italian male to win a grand slam title, the previous two being Nicola Pitrangeli and Adriano Panatta at the French Open.
From the start Medvedev had the psychological advantage having won six of their previous nine meetings and arrived at the Rod Laver Aren with a clear game plan by attacking the net and shortening the points keeping his young opponent off balance as much as possible.
The plan certainly worked, and he got an early break which he duly consolidated and within 37-minutes had claimed the opening set.
Sinner and his team realised he had to adapt his own game if he was to make any impression on this new approach by the Russian but again, it was Medvedev who managed to keep his nose in front.
The second set was a bit closer though the Medvedev serve was rarely threatened which was in stark contrast to Sinner who was having to battle hard and as expected, it was the young Italian who fell behind 3-1 in the second and in so doing, looked a bit dispirited with the whole affair.
Medvedev did suffer a bit of a wobble when closing it out but after 47-minutes, he went into a two-sets to love lead and looked to be reaching the home straight for his second grand slam title.
Sinner managed to ensure that in the third set, Medvedev didn’t get another early break and bearing in mind how long he had been on court prior to the final, started to make him work hard for his points and slowly Medvedev reverted to his more traditional defensive game.
In the seventh game, Sinner held his serve to love for the first time and he then broke the Russian for the first time with a series of stinging groundstrokes to grab the set and start the comeback.
Another love-hold provided the 22-year-old with a strong start in the fourth and with so much now at stake for both parties, the pair locked horns, especially from the baseline.
And it was Medvedev who crumbled under the pressure towards the end of the set tipping the match into the winner-take-all decider.
A single break of serve from the Italian reasserted his authority in the fifth set of a gruelling encounter, and he barely showed any nerves at all as he served for the championship in very impressive fashion to clinch his first Grand Slam title.
Medvedev was clearly disappointed, but showed great grace in his post-match speech at the trophy presentations.
“I want to congratulate Jannik,” he said looking at his opponent. “Today, you showed again why you deserve it. You fought till the end, managed to raise your level. You and your team are doing an amazing job. You win a lot of tournaments, make a lot of finals, and that’s probably not your last Grand Slam. I hope I can try and get the next one because it’s been three finals in a row. I’ll try my best to do better next time, but congrats to you, you deserve it.
“I want to thank my team for supporting me every day and every night. Dasha [his wife] and [daughter] Alisa if you are watching I am sorry I couldn’t make it today, but I am going to try next time for you.
“Just want to thank everyone it’s been an amazing two weeks. It hurts to lose in the final but being in the final is better than losing before. I’m proud of myself and I’m going to try even harder next time.”
As Medvedev indicated, this should be Sinners’ first of many celebrations over the coming years.
“Daniil, I want to congratulate you and your team for an amazing tournament again,” Sinner said in his victory speech. “I know we played in so many finals together already, but every match I find something where I can improve, and you make me a much better player. Your effort has been awesome throughout the whole tournament; the hours on court and today’s effort, running for every ball is remarkable to see. I hope you can lift this trophy; I’m sure you can. I wish you all the best for the season.”
Sinner continued: “I want to thank everyone for making this slam so special.
“My team, everyone in the box and also those watching from home who work with me. We are trying to get better every day. Even during the tournament, we were trying to get stronger, trying to understand the situation a bit better, so I am so glad to have you there supporting me and understanding me which sometimes is not easy because I am still a little bit young. I want to thank everyone for making this Slam so special.
“Everyone who is watching from home, especially my family. I wish that everyone could have my parents because they always let me choose whatever. They never put pressure on me. I wish this freedom is possible for as many young kids as possible, so thanks so much to my parents.”
Later Medvedev expanded on his performance.
“I think what happened is he started to play better, a little bit different tactically, because I proposed to him something different in the beginning of the match, which was very aggressive. I knew there was still going to be long points, but I needed to make the points as short as possible.
“I didn’t really do bad mistakes. In the fifth set I was, like every other match, trying to be proud of myself, and I was fighting, I was running. [I told myself]: if tomorrow I don’t feel my legs it doesn’t matter, I’m going to try everything I can today until the last point, and I did. I got a little tired physically, but Jannik didn’t really. He didn’t seem as tired as my opponents before.
“He started playing better. I got a little bit tired. Serve went a little bit worse. So, the momentum changed, and I really tried in my mind to change it back again, because that’s what tennis is about. But I didn’t manage to do it, and that’s why he’s the winner and has the trophy.”
A new name on the Norman Brooks Trophy which augurs well for the rest of the season.