The Italian was a set away from the title on his second appearance at the ATP 500 in Rotterdam but was unable to prevent Daniil Medvedev from rallying to a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 championship-match victory. Despite the disappointment of defeat, Sinner earmarked that display as something to build on.
Twelve months on and Sinner is now a Grand Slam and ATP Masters 1000 champion, a fixture in the Top 5 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings who returns to The Netherlands as the in-form player on Tour. As he looks to join a list of champions that includes Roger Federer, Richard Krajicek, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Jimmy Connors, ATPTour.com runs down five things that make the 22-year-old the man to beat at Rotterdam Ahoy.
1. He is a newly crowned Slam champ
Sinner will step on court as a Grand Slam champion for the first time in his opening match in Rotterdam. The Italian lifted his maiden major trophy last month at the Australian Open, where he capped his title run by beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Medvedev back to back.
Winning the biggest title of his career is not likely to stop Sinner from pushing for further success, however, a mission which he will begin under the roof at Rotterdam Ahoy.
“We believe in Jannik, we always have," reflected his coach Darren Cahill after Sinner’s Melbourne win. “He's a special young kid. He's been doing well. He's absorbing everything and trying new things on the court, and he just wants to get better. I'm sure, after this sinks in, he won't settle. He'll never settle. He wants to get better.”
"They always gave me [what I needed], they never put pressure on myself, which for me is maybe the key why I'm here today. I'm a quite relaxed man, who just enjoys to play tennis.”— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 29, 2024
Continue reading @janniksin's journey to Grand Slam glory 👇
2. He is THE in-form player on Tour
Sinner’s Grand Slam breakthrough was the culmination of a stellar six months during which Sinner consistently demonstrated that he had hit a new level with his game. That was no easy task for a player who has been touted for greatness since he burst onto the scene as ATP Newcomer of the Year in 2019.
“I like to dance in the pressure storm,” said Sinner, who has racked up a 34-4 tour-level record since the beginning of last August, of dealing with expectations. “Personally, I like it, because that's where most of the time I bring out my best tennis… I always try to enjoy on the court. I think pressure is a privilege, to be honest.”
Fans in Rotterdam trying to figure out what has elevated Sinner these past 12 months will do well to watch his serve closely. More consistent, precise deliveries have made him a tougher man to break, and they have also enabled the Italian to venture forward more to showcase his increasingly well-rounded net skills.
3. Dialled in against the Top 10
Sinner is joined in the ABN AMRO Open draw by fellow Top 10 stars Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz. Despite the presence of such strong rivals, the Italian’s recent progress makes it unlikely he will fear anyone.
When Sinner arrived in Rotterdam in 2023, he had won just nine of 22 matches against players inside the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Since then, he has gone 16-5 against Top 10 opponents, including winning 12 of his past 13 matches against players from that category.
His recent records against World No. 5 Rublev, No. 7 Rune and No. 8 Hurkacz are mostly positive, too. He leads Rublev 5-2 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series after winning all three of their meetings in the past 12 months. He trails Rune 1-2 but beat the Dane for first time in their most recent meeting at November’s Nitto ATP finals, while he downed Hurkacz in their only meeting in the past year (on clay in Monte-Carlo) to level their rivalry at 2-2.
4. Sinner’s rock-solid support
A close-knit team travels with Sinner on the ATP Tour and the Italian has often spoken of the strength he draws from a group that includes coaches Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill. The settled nature of his support network has helped power his rise in the past year, both on and off the court.
“When I ask someone to join my team it's not only if they are the best in their work but also how I feel with them,” Sinner told ATPTour.com last year. “For me that is very important because we spend not only the time when we work together, but also at dinner and in the morning. I see more of them than my family, so you have to feel very comfortable.”
5. Firing up at the 500s
Narrowly missing out on the trophy in Rotterdam a year ago appeared to only galvanise Sinner when it came to pushing for trophies at ATP 500s. He won the only two hard-court events in that category that he has played since, last October in Beijing and Vienna. His opponent in both finals? His Rotterdam foe Medvedev.
Sinner has reached at least the quarter-finals on his past nine ATP 500 appearances, dating back to his title run in Washington in 2021. Now a three-time champion in that category and an 11-time tour-level champion overall, Sinner will hope the ABN AMRO Open trophy will be the next one he adds to his burgeoning collection.