A Vienna Triumph By Sinner That Was Definitely Worth The Wait

Jannik Sinner (photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Christian Hofer)

VIENNA/WASHINGTON, October 29, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

There’s a meaningful lyric from the 1977 Billy Joel classic hit song, “Vienna,” which asks: “When will you realize that Vienna waits for you?”

Well, as it turns out, it was the 9,600 fans that filled the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna Sunday afternoon for the Erste Bank Open final, who waited patiently for 22-year-old World No. 4 Jannik Sinner of Italy and World No. 3 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia to grind through three dramatic sets of championship tennis.

But guess what? It was worth the three-plus-hours that it took to decide the outcome of this ATP 500 indoor hard court final, plus the match-within-a-game the two competitors endured through for 18 minutes in the fourth game of the deciding set, in which Sinner won.

Finally, once the last point was completed, it was Sinner who raised his arms in victory and celebrated after defeating Medvedev for the second time in an ATP 500 title match in a month, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3, in three hours and four minutes to earn his fourth title of 2023 and the 10th tour-level crown of his career, which tied him with Adriano Panatta for most singles titles won by an Italian man. The crowd reacted enthusiastically by showering both Sinner and Medvedev with thunderous applause as they met at the net to congratulate each other.

After the young, red-headed Italian from South Tyrol prevailed over Medvedev in the Beijing final earlier this month, he did it again in Vienna. In Sunday’s championship match, Sinner saved a pair of set points in the opening set before he garnered what turned out to be a match-turning break in the fourth game of the third set. That’s when Sinner managed to convert on his ninth break point of an 18-minute, 32-point marathon game that included 13 deuce points.

Soon, Sinner held serve to wrap up his 56th victory of the season in his 70th match on his second match point opportunity. Sinner improved to 2-6 in his head-to-head against the 27-year-old Medvedev, whose win-loss record for 2023 dropped to a still-very-impressive 64-15. It was the fourth time these two Top-5 players had met in a final this season. While Medvedev won the first two meetings, in Rotterdam and Miami in late winter and early spring, more recently, it’s been Sinner’s turn to shine.

Sinner struck 36 winners to 28 for Medvedev and was particularly effective in winning 89 percent of his second-serve points. Both competitors broke the other four times and by the end, Sinner was ahead on total points 128-122.

After the match, Sinner described his triumph this way:

“It took a lot of mental and physical stuff,” he said. “I think we both served very well the first set. I managed somehow to get back on serve when he was a break up, because I felt like he was serving really good. I found a way in the first set.

Second set, I felt like he was trying to get into the rally a little bit more and I was hustling a little bit. In the third set I tried to step up a little bit. I had a lot of break points; I couldn’t use them and then at the end I used them so I’m very happy. Obviously to finish the match, it was really a mental thing, but I’m very happy about how I managed today and very happy for another title.”

Meanwhile, Medvedev, always gracious in defeat, gave props to Sinner:

“Big congrats to Jannik. It was a tough match, at one moment I thought I maybe could get you,” he said during the trophy ceremony. “I didn’t manage to do it. As I said already three times this year, hopefully we can play more finals, maybe even this year. Big congrats to you, you’re playing great, finishing the year strong.”

With the Vienna crown wrapped up, Sinner has now earned 40 tour-level hard court wins this season, the first time he’s reached that plateau. Besides his October triumphs in Vienna and Beijing — both on hard courts — Sinner has also won hard-court crowns this season in Montpellier and Toronto. Like Medvedev, he’s already secured a berth in next month’s Nitto ATP Finals.

“I will definitely remember this match for a long time,” Sinner said. “It was an extremely difficult game mentally and physically. It was definitely one of my best matches. It’s hard to say whether it was the best because every game is different. But to play at such a level in a final is very special.”

Ram and Salisbury win third doubles title of year

No. 2 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain won their third doubles title of season with a 6-4, 5-7, 12-10 victory over unseeded Americans Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow, in an hour and 33 minutes. It’s the second time Ram and Salisbury have won the Vienna title following their success in 2019.

The winners combined to hit seven aces, win 76 percent of their service points and converted their only break point opportunity. Ram and Salisbury were outpointed 65-64. They will share first-prize earnings of €148,020.

Ram and Salisbury, who were playing in their fourth final this season, captured the Vienna title on their fourth championship point of the match tie-break. The American-British duo previously won titles this season at Lyon and the US Open. Ram and Salisbury are 31-17 on the season and 171-81 since first teaming up at 2019 Brisbane where they reached the final. They are 12-9 in finals together.

“We’ve had a great last couple of months and we love coming back to Vienna,” Ram said during the trophy ceremony. “We’ve had some good memories. … It’s been a tough year in some ways but we’re so happy to win this trophy, again.”

Later, Ram said: “We felt like we were doing all the right things and had to keep going. If they beat us when we were feeling like that then it would have been too good. They are a really tough team, serve so well. We had to have the confidence we would at least give ourselves a chance and we did.”

Salisbury added: “Today was one of the toughest matches we’ve played all year, but we came through it. We’ve had a lot of fun this week. It’s been an amazing week.”

Ram and Salisbury have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, where they are the defending champions. They will be appearing together for the fifth time.

Lammons and Withrow, who were appearing in their ninth tour-level doubles final this season, have won four titles in 2023: Newport, Atlanta, Winston-Salem and Astana. They will split €78,950.

Around the Erste Bank Open

On Saturday, Erste Bank Open tournament director Herwig Straka received the Golden Medal of Merit of the State of Vienna. Straka, who has been tournament director since 2008 and has helped the tournament achieve ATP 500-series status as well as to become Austria’s most highly-prized recurring sporting event with great international appeal, was presented the award by City Councilor Peter Hanke inside Wiener Stadthalle in between the two semifinal matches.

By the numbers

Jannik Sinner has won 40 hard-court matches in a season for the first time in career. He owns a 9-3 win-loss record in finals on this surface.

“Quotable …”

“Congrats for another great great week to you and your team. You’re doing an incredible job. Making finals with you means a lot to me. You made me improve a lot. Thank you so much. I wish you all the best for the rest of the season.”

Jannik Sinner to Daniil Medvedev during Sunday’s trophy ceremony of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.