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Mature Medvedev out to stop surging Jannik Sinner in Australian ...

Mature Medvedev out to stop surging Jannik Sinner in Australian
Russian has battled through with positivity but will have to dig even deeper against the man who swatted Novak Djokovic aside
Daniil Medvedev and Jannik SinnerView image in fullscreen

Mature Medvedev out to stop surging Jannik Sinner in Australian Open final

Russian has battled through with positivity but will have to dig even deeper against the man who swatted Djokovic aside

In the days before the start of Wimbledon 2019, 256 men and women spent their week battling in the qualifying tournament in Roehampton. Late into the evening, during the opening round, a 17-year-old by the name of Jannik Sinner stepped on to the lawn for his first grand slam qualifier.

For the group of fans and players that stood on the narrow paths each side of the court, it was unforgettable. Sinner spent more than two and a half hours pulverising the ball, winners flying from all parts of the court as the purity of his ball-striking elicited gasps. But he also provoked a special performance from his journeyman opponent, Alex Bolt. It was an incredible match and the Australian barely hung on, winning 12-10 in the third set.

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There has never been any doubt about Sinner’s shotmaking but as he competes in a grand slam final for the first time against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night, his evolution since that defeat is a consequence of his consistent growth, bold decisions and hard work.

At 22, Sinner has evolved from a pure shotmaker into a truly complete player. His movement and defence are a significant part of his success. He has also worked on imbuing his game with more variety while learning how to effectively close. While his powerful return of serve has always been excellent, it has taken significant effort for the Italian’s serve to become a weapon in its own right.

His path from being a precocious talent to a contender is also the result of smart decisions. In early 2022, despite just breaking into the top 10 for the first time, Sinner felt he needed a change. He split from Riccardo Piatti, a renowned figure in the game, and dissolved almost his entire support team. He has since taken on more responsibility, hiring Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill as his co-coaches.

Even as he began to make great strides last year Sinner was not ready for Novak Djokovic when they played in his first grand slam semi-final, at Wimbledon. At the US Open, he suffered a fourth-round loss to Alexander Zverev. Sinner took the correct lessons from his defeats and continued to move forward.

Daniil Medvedev (left) beat Jannik Sinner in Miami last yearView image in fullscreen

Sinner’s incredible performances over the past two weeks are a consequence of his talent, growth and the lessons he has learn. He has simply not let up. Having reached the semi-final without dropping a set, he completely outplayed Djokovic on Friday. There is no doubt he has played at the highest level, but on Sunday he will cross a new frontier, with all of the tension and nerves that come with it.

At the beginning of the tournament, Medvedev said he hoped to comport himself more maturely on the court, spending less time and energy on pointless arguments with umpires or unruly spectators. The Russian’s path through to the final is testament to his change in mentality and how he has stayed positive and focused through countless difficulties and detours.

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Medvedev has endured three five-set matches, including recoveries from two sets down against Emil Ruusuvuori and Zverev, with a 3.40am finish against the former. His first-round win over Terence Atmane and in the fourth against Nuno Borges were played out in stifling heat. The 27-year-old has been on court for 20 hours 33 minutes, almost six hours longer than Sinner.

In contrast to the Italian’s inexperience, Sunday will mark Medvedev’s sixth grand slam final and his third in Melbourne. His 1-4 record is primarily a consequence of having the misfortune of facing Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in them. But as a result Medvedev knows how to handle the pressure and intensity of a major final. After all of his adventures here, will he have enough left in the tank to handle the stratospheric form of Sinner?

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