Simple: that a champion was born in Milan. A calm boy like Borg, who throws the backhand (almost) like Djokovic and Murray, with a timing – the time on the ball – that reminds of the Illuminati of the racket. Alex De Minaur, a finalist in the last edition and now number 18 in the world, knows something about it, and yesterday he turned himself over in three sets (4-2 4-1 4-2): The Demon, the Demon, as they call De Minaur , reduced to poor devil by Jannick, the Exorcist specialized in big prey.
The Australian is the second top-15 Atp that Sinner beats this year after Gael Monfils, annoyed in the Antwerp semi-finals. "How much am I now? I don't know, we'll see next year. To be a top-15 you have to play top-15 every week, for now I have succeeded here and in Antwerp. The important thing is not to think about what you did, but to always improve ".
Sinner has the fabric, even mental, of the great. Red mop and hat, a passion for go-karting, grandma's wiener schnitzels and De Bruyne's goals on the Playstation, on the pitch it looks like Borg hides emotions. But the public holidays of the Allianz Cloud enjoyed them, all right. "I am of few words, you know, but this has been a fantastic week. I have never had such support. I do not know if Federer Nadal and Djokovic at this age still have this feeling, but I am still young and I enjoy it all … ».
At 12 he promised skiing and admired Bode Miller. He was the best of Italy in the slalom of his category, not yet the young adult that seems now. "I never stood still, a real pain in the ass. Let's say that my parents did a good job ». At the age of 13, however, he decided that the slopes bothered him, he came down from the mountains – mother Sieglinde and father Hans Peter, with him in Milan this week together with his older brother Mark, run the Fondovalle refuge in Val Fiscalina, near the Tre Cime di Lavaredo – to move in front of the Ligurian sea, to the Piatti Tennis Center of Bordighera. He didn't speak a word of Italian, and the first few months he spent them at the home of a Croatian technician from the Piatti Academy, while coach Riccardo, Max Sartori (also from Alto Adige, who had discovered him a kid) plus Cristian Brandi and Andrea Volpini who follow him in some tournaments, they cuddled him. He missed the junior circuit altogether, "when it was difficult to see that the others won and I didn't", to immediately try to compete with the great ones; like a frail, tall, lanky boy he almost got slapped by everyone.
But he always looked forward. An autumn ago it was 770 in the world, at the beginning of 2019 it won the Challenger of Bergamo plus two Futures in Trento and Santa Maria di Pula – smaller tournaments, but they make 16 victories spun – then it didn't stop anymore, debuting in the Slam and playing it for four sets with a former n.3 in the world like Stan Wawrinka in New York, entering among the first 100 at 18 and 2 months, not even Panatta got there so fast. And to think that in Milan a wild card entered from an invitation, from worse qualified than the tournament. But the question now is: where can Sinner get?
Tactically and technically, even if it is number 95 of the world, by now the Exorcist as peaks of yield is worth a place among the first 30 and the first 20. His biman reverse is impressive for precision, continuity, power, angles; knows how to place it along the line and crossed with deadly effectiveness. Remember Djokovic for the rhythm, the depth of the ball, Murray for the gesture and the advance, but compared to the Scottish, another ex n.1 in the world, he plays it with more aggressiveness, always pushing. The right is less continuous, every now and then, as they say in jargon "if they lose it", but it remains an excellent blow, as shown by the answer that yesterday placed at 158 per hour against a bewildered De Minaur (and even more shocked, in the stands, he was the mentor of De Minaur, former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt).
The first service travels regularly over 200 per hour, and it hurts badly. However, the percentages must be raised: on average it places 58 on 100 in the field, while it is necessary to arrive – Federer docet – around 70. The second can be improved, as well as the flying game. Jannik knows how to go to the net when needed, guided an already good tactical instinct, but technically in the volleys he is still raw, especially considering that he will have to face increasingly formidable opponents. "I have to go on more often," he acknowledged first. "That is the key to winning even at a high level". The answer instead is already from top-player, often played central but very deep, "to Djokovic", to the body of the adversary.
It is less powerful than Berrettini, perhaps less universal – its favorite surface is the indoor cement – but with less 'holes' in the repertoire, and with a five-year advantage: the margins for improvement are all to be discovered. And as Matteo knows how to play the best shots with courage just when it is needed most.
The two winners of the Next Gen that preceded it, the Korean Chung and Tsitsipas, the following year in January they arrived in the semifinals at the Australian Open. For Jannik, who is now going to give himself a catwalk in Ortisei, in his home Challenger, in 2020 there will be a debut in Melbourne: let's wait there, without asking him rabbits from the hat at every tournament but knowing that I'm certainly not finished here the wonders he will show us .