Match Report

Sinner Surprise: Italian dethrones Djokovic to reach first Grand Slam final

Fourth seed awaits Medvedev or Zverev in Sunday's title match
January 26, 2024
Jannik Sinner celebrates becoming the fifth Italian man to reach a major final.
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Jannik Sinner celebrates becoming the fifth Italian man to reach a major final. By ATP Staff

Jannik Sinner turned the most anticipated matchup of the 2024 Australian Open into his own personal showcase in a dominant win against 10-time champion Novak Djokovic. While the Italian's upset against the World No. 1 may not be a shock, the 6-1, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3 scoreline is one of the more stunning in recent memory.

Djokovic fought off a match point in the third-set tie-break but was ultimately unable to rise to his opponent's challenge on a largely off-colour afternoon. The Serbian made 54 unforced errors and did not create a break point as Sinner held firm with a patient game plan that seemed to dare the defending champion to beat him in the rallies.

"It was a very, very tough match. I started off really well," Sinner told Jim Courier in his on-court interview. "For two sets, I felt like he was not feeling that great on court so I just tried to keep pushing. Then in the third set I had match point and I missed the forehand, but this is tennis.

"I just tried to be ready also for the next set, which I started off really well. And obviously the atmosphere was so great to play here."

After beating Djokovic in two of three Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings last November, Sinner improved to 3-4 in their rivalry and advanced to his first Grand Slam final with a measured display in Melbourne. The Italian played within himself and showed great mental strength to hold off a late charge from the World No. 1, who slowly rounded into form as the match wore on.

While Sinner was sharp in tactics and execution, knocking back Djokovic with his weight of shot, the Serbian fuelled his opponent's confidence with a flat early display that was the antithesis of his usual level in high-stakes matches. Djokovic had been short of his best for much of this Melbourne fortnight, but his ability to raise his game in the late rounds at majors has helped him win a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles. On this occasion, the Serbian's level dipped instead, until an unsuccessful late surge.

After Sinner eased through the first two sets with an early and late break in each — racing through both in a combined one hour, 13 minutes — Djokovic fought off a break point at the start of the third and stayed level in the set with strong serving. The "tie-break king" then forced a fourth set by winning the 21st of his past 23 major tie-breaks, shaking off a match point when Sinner blinked by netting a routine forehand.

But Sinner pressed on in the fourth and quickly re-established control in Rod Laver Arena, quelling any fears of a repeat of their 2022 Wimbledon quarter-final, when Djokovic came back from two sets down to beat him. After missing out on three break points to start the set, the Italian broke from 40/0 to lead 3-1. He held after two deuces to consolidate and later served out the match from 15/30, sealing the milestone victory with an untouchable forehand, his 31st winner of the match.

"I was looking forward to this match," said Sinner. "It's always nice to have this kind of player who you can learn from. I lost [to Djokovic] last year in the semis in Wimbledon, so I think I learned a lot from that. It's all a part of the process."

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In ending Djokovic's 33-match Melbourne winning streak, Sinner handed him his first AO defeat since 2018 and his first ever Melbourne loss in the semi-finals or later (previously 20-0). Conversely, Sinner extended a scorching run of his own: He has now won 19 of his past 20 matches dating back to October, though his streak of 17 consecutive sets won at this Australian Open came to an end.

"The confidence from the end of last year has for sure kept the belief that I can play against the best players in the world," the Italian said. "I'm really happy that I can play Sunday my first final. Let's see how it goes. But I'm really happy, I'll come here with a smile and I'll try my best."

Despite the defeat, Djokovic will remain No. 1 in the next edition of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Sinner could rise to a career-high of No. 3 if he wins his first major title and Daniil Medvedev loses to Alexander Zverev in Friday's second semi-final.

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