Sinner In The Semis: #NextGenATP Italian Makes Breakthrough In Antwerp
Eighteen-year-old #NextGenATP star Jannik Sinner’s stock continues to rise.
The Italian teen reached his first ATP Tour semi-final on Friday, defeating fellow #NextGenATP player Frances Tiafoe of the United States 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to make the last four of the European Open in Antwerp. Sinner is the youngest tour-level semi-finalist since 17-year-old Borna Coric accomplished the feat in Basel five years ago.
“I just can say thanks for the wild card!” Sinner said on court after his one-hour, 42-minute triumph. “I think I played good today once more. It was not easy in the end. I was shaking a little bit. On the important points, I was serving quite good, and I’m happy to be in the semi-finals.”
Sinner is proving mature beyond his years, showing a steady composure throughout his run in Antwerp as a wild card. At a career-high No. 119 in the ATP Rankings, Sinner broke Tiafoe for 4-2 in the deciding set with a lasered forehand passing shot that forced a backhand volley error.
But the pressure mounted as he served for victory at 5-3, with a miss on a sitting volley on top of the net giving Tiafoe two break points. Sinner responded well, saving both of those chances with his serve, forcing errors off the American’s racquet. After eliciting a backhand into the net at deuce, Sinner finished off his win with another big serve.
“I tried to start well in the third set, and I think I served a little bit better in the third set. I think that was the key," Sinner said. "Of course at the end I was shaking a little bit. I tried to reset after the easy volley in the last game and I served a very good first serve and second serve, so I’m very happy now that I’ve reached the semi-finals."
Sinner struck 10 aces in the match and saved four of the five break points he faced to back up his second-round win over top seed Gael Monfils, which was his first Top 50 victory. The teen was already the youngest quarter-finalist in this event’s history and the youngest player to reach the last eight on the ATP Tour since 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime did it last year in Chengdu.
"I played against a tough player, of course. I tried to play my tennis. In the first set, it worked. In the second set, he was a little bit more aggressive, so I felt a little bit under pressure," Sinner said. "I tried to play quite long, quite deep the ball. It worked very good today."
Depending on results at other events this week, Sinner could potentially crack the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings on Monday for the first time. This week last year, he was World No. 778. In the semi-finals, Sinner will face former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, against whom he lost in four sets in his Grand Slam debut at the US Open.
"I hope I can play once more against Wawrinka," Sinner said. "So maybe I can win this time, and I’m looking forward to the next one."