Like many ATP Tour stars, Jannik Sinner’s pre-match routine is meticulously planned out. The World No. 4 employs a team of top professionals to ensure he is in the best shape — physically, mentally, and tactically — to step on court and face some of the best players in the world.
Yet the last words spoken to the home favourite prior to his Nitto ATP Finals clash with Holger Rune on Thursday evening didn’t come from either of his coaches, Simone Vagnozzi or Darren Cahill. Instead, it was Matteo Testai, a seven-year-old who accompanied Sinner on court as part of the mascot kid programme presented by Nitto, who gave the Italian a final pre-match boost.
“He was a funny kid, [it was a] funny moment,” Sinner later told ATPTour.com when asked about young Matteo’s words as the pair walked on court together at the Pala Alpitour. “He said, ‘Let's go, let's go, Jannik. We are all rooting for you’.
“It was really nice. Getting these young kids the opportunity to go out, not only with the player but seeing the court from the inside and everything, it's really nice.”
Sinner went on to defeat Rune in a three-set thriller to the delight of a raucous home crowd in Turin. The 22-year-old has spoken a lot this week about relishing the chance to compete at the prestigious season finale in his home country, and he acknowledged that taking to court with a young fan was another aspect that makes the Nitto ATP Finals experience unique.
“I think it makes it special for the players,” said Sinner of the mascot programme, which was launched by Nitto in 2017. “We have so many times in the year that we walk on alone. Here it is a little bit different with the mascot, so it's nice.”
The walk-on mascots at this year’s Nitto ATP Finals are all from Casa UGI, a Turin-based volunteer organisation that supports children who are battling cancer and their families, doctors, nurses and volunteers. The children participating have either struggled with an illness or have a family member who is battling one.
The organisation’s President, Dr. Enrico Pira, was happy that Casa UGI could be part of the programme, in which a child accompanies every singles player on court for each of their matches at this year’s season finale.
“Participating with an active role in such an event as the Nitto ATP Finals is a source of joy and great pride for our children and for the entire organisation of Casa UGI,” said Pira. “Entering the court with the best players in the world and experiencing this unique role of mascot provides the children with a moment of strength and positive energy that remains in their hearts and minds while they are engaged with their families in the fight against the disease.
“Our thanks go to Nitto and this big family for the friendship and support they show us on this special occasion."