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"I don’t like when my opponent makes me run, & Rafael Nadal is certainly going to do it" - Jannik Sinner

Rafael Nadal in action against Sebastian Korda at the 2020 French Open
Rafael Nadal in action against Sebastian Korda at the 2020 French Open
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Modified 05 Oct 2020, 14:05 IST
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19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinnner is widely considered to be one of the most talented teenagers on the ATP tour. After winning his first Grand Slam main draw match at the Australian Open in January, Sinner has had his big breakthrough at the French Open this fortnight, where on Tuesday he will take on 12-time champion Rafael Nadal - undoubtedly the toughest test in tennis today.

Sinner has already scored some big wins this week, beating No. 11 seed David Goffin and recent US Open finalist Alexander Zverev (who later complained that he was feeling unwell during their match). While he is aware of the challenge that playing Rafael Nadal at Court Philippe Chatrier entails, Sinner is going into the match with a positive attitude and game plan.

“The most important thing is to go on court with the right attitude,” Sinner told the press after his fourth round win. "I’ll try to play my own game because if he (Rafael Nadal) gets you to run it’s very difficult to win. It is important to have the right balance and not to start with the handbrake on. In a match like this I can learn things that will be useful in future.”

Rafael Nadal reads the match very well and understands what his opponent is doing: Jannik Sinner

Jannik Sinner celebrates after his fourth round match against Alexander Zverev at the French Open
Jannik Sinner celebrates after his fourth round match against Alexander Zverev at the French Open

As a junior Sinner only got as high as No. 133 in the world, but he has quickly climbed up the ranks on the pro circuit. By August last year, he had become one of 11 players to win multiple Challengers before turning 18 (others in this illustrious group include Nadal himself, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet).

In October, Sinner reached the semi-finals of the ATP event in Antwerp, and at the end of the year he won the 2019 NextGen ATP Finals.

But it has been this fortnight where Jannik Sinner has made his presence felt at a Major. He has showcased an aggressive brand of tennis to reach the quarterfinals in his first appearance at Roland Garros; the last man to do so was Nadal himself, his next opponent, back in 2005.

Rafael Nadal of Spain collects the trophy from Rod Laver at the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal of Spain collects the trophy from Rod Laver at the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros

While this will be the first official meeting between Jannik Sinner and Rafael Nadal, the Italian has had the chance to take part in training sessions with the 19-time Slam champion. Sinner knows he will need to take the initiative if he is to have any chance against the Spaniard.

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“He (Rafael Nadal) makes you play a lot of balls," Sinner said. "He reads the match very well and understands what his opponent is doing. I don’t like when my opponent makes me run, and he’s certainly going to do it.”

It may be too early for Sinner to upset Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros this year, but stranger things have happened in 2020. The Spaniard's fans will be hoping that at least his quarterfinal match goes as per the script on Tuesday.

Published 05 Oct 2020, 14:05 IST
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