2024 Australian Open – Sinner earns his first Slam

By Vanessa Taylor and Russell Boxshall

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Jannik Sinner decided to play his first match of the year at the Australian Open.

Three Russians, two Netherlanders, an Argentine and THE Serb later, Sinner held the trophy.

The Italian saw off Botic van de Zandschulp, Jesper de Jong, Sebastián Báez and Karen Khachanov in routine straight sets before meeting 5th seed Andrey Rublev in the quarter finals.

Rublev at least pushed Sinner to a tiebreak in the second set, taking a 5-1 lead before Sinner won the next six points as his opponent began playing for safety, which is not his game.

Rublev could not convert any of his eight break points for the match, while Sinner did not lose serve.

The match, which only commenced at 10.42 pm and finished at 1.21 am, ended with a 6-4 7-6(5) 6-3 Sinner win.

Fans watching the match between Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner on the big screen at Garden Square. Photo: Tennis Australia/ Mark Peterson

But there was a massive obstacle to overcome for Sinner to make the final. Novak Djokovic. Defending champion and holder of a record 10 Australian Opens.

In Sinner’s favour was the fact that he’d won two of their last three meetings.

Their semi final began with Sinner taking the first set 6-1 in 35 minutes as Djokovic made uncharacteristic errors. The second set was only a game better for him.

Still, Djokovic had won three of his last four matches when down two sets to love. So a comeback was a theoretical possibility.

His grit in the third set made the possibility seem closer to reality as he got his forehand going.

He defended a match point at 5-6 in the tiebreak, thanks to a Sinner error into the net. Adding an error wide and one long, Sinner gifted the set to Djokovic.

The humble Italian then had a meltdown by his courteous standards. At the sit down, he threw his water bottle mildly to the ground.

The set and tiebreak had taken longer than the first two sets combined.

Djokovic couldn’t keep the momentum going in the fourth set. The unforced errors crept back into his play – 54 for the match – as he went down 1-6 2-6 6-7(6) 3-6.

Novak Djokovic congratulating Jannik Sinner. Photo by Tennis Australia/ Hamish Blair

At his press conference, Djokovic firstly congratulated Sinner, “He outplayed me completely today”. Then he admitted to being “shocked” by what was one of his “worst grand slam matches”.

Sinner’s opponent for the final would be Daniil Medvedev.

In his semi, Medvedev was down two sets and 4-5, then 5-6, to Alexander Zverev, before forcing a tiebreak. As Medvedev achieved two set points, the face of Zverev’s father revealed the anguish of watching.

Medvedev’s effort in going on to win the semi 5-7 3-6 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 6-3, was remarkable. It was his third five-setter on his way to the final – and the second coming from two sets to love down – having also gone all the way against Emil Ruusuvuori and Hubert Hurkacz.

By the time of the final, he had spent five hours and 49 mins more on court than Sinner.

He was also hard-done-by through the scheduling, with many late finishes, including one at 3.39 am. No wonder he wrote “I need sleep” on the TV camera lens.

Somehow, he ambushed a nervous Sinner in the first two sets of the championship match. He started by breaking for 2-1 when Sinner didn’t make a single first serve in the third game, and took the set 6-3.

Jannik Sinner and Darren Cahill chat with Andre Agassi on the first day of the Australian Open. Photo: Tennis Australia/ Fiona Hamilton

The pattern repeated in the second set, and when the score stretched to 4-1, Sinner’s coach Darren Cahill started calling out “take the net away from him”. The advice seemed to spur him on as he immediately broke and some great serving got him to 3-5. But he soon missed a break point opportunity that would have given him 4-5 and another set was Medvedev’s 6-3.

As Sinner looked perplexed, Cahill kept urging him, “Just push through”.

By 5-4 in the third, Medvedev had been running all over the court and began to tire, going for his towel as much as possible. Sinner had been running just as much but had more in reserve and claimed the set 6-4.

The next set, Sinner served a variety of aces and played boldly. His power forced Medvedev errors and he won another set 6-4.

Jannik Sinner’s Carota Boys fans at the 2024 Australian Open. Photo: Tennis Australia/ Fiona Hamilton

In the final set, Medvedev’s fatigue was obvious. At 1-1 30-30, a 39 shot rally led him to bend over and lean on his knees. He kept fighting but a tired service game saw him broken for 2-4. But gentle volleys at the net allowed him to hold for 3-5.

There were a couple of nervous moments from Sinner serving for the trophy but a big forehand winner down the line sealed the victory for him.

He lay on the court, exhausted and letting it sink in. Medvedev graciously wandered over to his side to offer congratulations, despite the disappointment of now having lost three out of three finals in Melbourne.

Another five-setter for the final meant he had spent more time on the court in a grand slam than any other man, breaking the 23 hours and 40 minutes record of Alcaraz at the 2022 US Open.

Jannik Sinner at his press conference after winning the 2024 Australian Open. Photo: Tennis Australia/ George Sal

Afterwards, the champion said: “I think the most important part was the support I had throughout these two weeks. I felt that many, many people were watching, also from home on the TV, so I just tried my best.

“I was a little bit in trouble today. I was two sets to love down in a little bit over one hour. I just tried to stay positive, tried to stick to the game plan which I had to adjust a little bit as Daniil is an incredible player…an incredible fighter, he’s been so many hours on court.

“I’m obviously sorry for him today but, for sure, he will lift some more grand slam trophies.”

Title photo by Tennis Australia/Hamish Blair

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