OPINION: Jannik Sinner can reach the very top after rising to career-high ranking

OPINION: Jannik Sinner can reach the very top after rising to career-high ranking
Jannik Sinner is at his highest-ever ranking
Jannik Sinner is at his highest-ever ranking
After reaching number three in the ATP rankings following his win in Rotterdam, the next step for Jannik Sinner (22) is getting closer to the number one spot.

Before this year, Adriano Panatta was the highest-ever ranked Italian, reaching the number four spot in 1976 after winning the French Open. That's now been changed after a curly-haired South Tyrolean by the name of Jannik Sinner became world number three after winning the title in Rotterdam on Sunday. 

One of the three strongest players on the planet. Given that only Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz are ahead of him, saying it out loud makes it even more impressive. 

However, it certainly doesn't get him carried away, the boy with the angelic smile, but as cold and determined as his country wants him to be, both on a tennis court and off it. 

Jannik, having mathematically reached the number three position after his semi-final triumph over Tallon Griekspoor, limited himself to commenting: 'Of course I'm happy, but it's just a number, I instead want to be an example, to make Italian tennis grow' .

The fifth symphony

Expectation levels are high for Sinner, who having reached his career-best position, certainly does not want to stop there.

In recent times, Wawrinka, Del Potro, Cilic, Raonic, Thiem and Tsitsipas have not gone beyond that position. All good players, but not as complete as the South Tyrolean: some technically, some mentally and some physically.

He has already beaten both Djokovic and Alcaraz in the last two years. Twice against Alcaraz and three times out of the last four against the Serb. Not even Daniil Medvedev, beaten four times in a row, is a threat.

A crescendo worthy of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony: the 4090 points accumulated before the Rotterdam tournament speak for themselves: almost a thousand more than Djokovic, just under one thousand seven hundred more than Medvedev and three thousand more than Alcaraz.

A far cry from his struggles back in October 2022, ranked 15th in the world. The unstoppable march began with the Wimbledon semi-final lost to Djokovic: the first 1000 in Toronto, then the 500 in Beijing and Vienna - in China he became fourth, equalling Panatta's historic record. 

At the ATP Finals he had to give in to Djokovic, but he made up for it in the Davis Cup by beating him in singles and doubles and giving Italy the trophy in the final.

The rest is mouth-watering: victory at the Australian Open and third place in the ranking. So why could he not aspire to being top of the pile? With this kind of form nothing can be out of reach.

The turning point

To begin with, Jannik can try to gain a few points as early as March at the Indian Wells Masters 1000, but the most difficult feat for him, the one that would guarantee him lasting success and a permanent place in the top of the rankings, would be to go all the way to the final at Roland Garros.

Today it seems to be asking a bit too much of him, because if on a hard court Sinner is doing great, on clay he has yet to reach that level. 

In fact, he should improve quite a bit if we think that last year in Monte Carlo he was eliminated in the semi-finals by Rune, withdrew in Barcelona against Musetti, went out in the round of 16 in Rome with Cerundolo, and failed miserably at the French, being knocked out in the second round by Altmaier.

But there is also another element to consider. This time around Sinner is in a different place. A robotic sniper, a kind of Robocop who leaves you no chance, hammering you from the back of the court and frustrating every opponent. 

The million-dollar question then is: how will this Sinner do on clay?  We will know soon enough in a couple of months, and we can't wait to find out, hoping not to be disappointed. But then again, in the magic year of 2024, it seems difficult not to get carried away by the brilliant Italian. 

Marco Romandini - Editor-in-chief


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