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Vonn on Sinner: 'He really reminds me of Roger'

Olympic gold medalist discusses the rise of the Australian Open champion
February 02, 2024
Jannik Sinner and Lindsey Vonn skied together in 2022.
Lindsey Vonn
Jannik Sinner and Lindsey Vonn skied together in 2022. By Andrew Eichenholz

Olympic gold medalist and retired skiing star Lindsey Vonn has known Jannik Sinner for a few years and was thrilled to watch the Italian, who grew up as a competitive skier, win his first major title at the Australian Open.

“I always thought it was really special that he was a former ski racer and that's obviously where we connected,” Vonn told “He's a pretty shy guy, but he's really humble and always super kind. I think he has just a great perspective on the sport and I think to a degree, some of that comes from skiing. We've talked about it quite a few times.

“He's just a great athlete, very smart and I'm not surprised that he won Australia. I thought he would win before he did, but he's someone that's going to be around for a long time. And he really reminds me of Roger, to be honest.”

Vonn, a longtime tennis fan, was referencing former No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings Roger Federer, another friend of hers. She believes the way Sinner approaches pressure — something they have spoken about — makes him stand out.

“If he's under pressure, and he's got to serve, he's got match point or something, the perspective is that if he misses the point, nothing is going to happen,” Vonn said. “It's not like in skiing, where if you don't take the turn right, you crash, and you could potentially hurt yourself very badly.

“So it's the kind of fearlessness that he puts everything out there no matter what the situation. And that perspective, I think, is really different from most people, most athletes, and I think he uses that to his advantage.”

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Sinner has explained that he chose tennis over skiing because he simply prefers it. One of the reasons why is that in skiing, one mistake could ruin an entire run, while in tennis there is time to problem solve and persevere.

“If you make one mistake, you're in the fences, which is something that I really loved. I loved the risk, and I loved going fast, and the adrenaline and all of those things,” Vonn said. “But it is a very dangerous sport, and it has cost me. I've had over 10 surgeries now and so I always told Jannik, ‘You chose the right sport, you're in a much safer sport’.

“I feel like it's the same adrenaline and things like that. I'm jealous because I would love to be able to compete on a stage like he has in tennis. But it's a much different sport as far as risk goes, that's for sure.”

The pair skied together once, in 2022, on Sinner’s home mountain. They also played tennis on top of a museum. “It was pretty cool,” Vonn said. “Although my tennis skills were not great, I will say, at that time.”

Vonn described Sinner’s skiing by saying: “He's really tall, so the taller you are, I think the more difficult it is to ski. But I think it's similar to his tennis. He's very fluid and elegant and he's able to carve and make really nice turns and it seems really effortless for him.

“I was actually pretty nervous skiing with him because I didn't want to be the reason that something happened and he got hurt. But after skiing with him, it's clear that that's not going to happen. He's very skilled and he's a really elegant skier.”

Vonn noted that Sinner is still young, aged 22, and is already “very mature for his age”.

“In just the few years that I've known him, I definitely see his confidence level growing,” Vonn said. “He's talked about it publicly, but [he is] just getting stronger physically. He's a really tall, lanky man and he's definitely trying to fill that out and get stronger. But he's just maturing, he's growing and he's only going to get better. I'm excited to watch him continue to succeed in his career.”

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