Sinner Garners Glory In First Grand Slam Title At Australian Open

Jannik Sinner (photo: Tennis Australia/George Sal)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 28, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

A total of 283 points were contested during Sunday night’s Australian Open final between Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev. While some were more memorable than others, it’s the very last one – the 142nd point won by Sinner – that the youthful, 22-year-old Italian with the carrot-top red hair tucked underneath his white Nike ball cap will always remember.

At 11:31 p.m. in Melbourne, after battling for three hours and 44 minutes, Sinner capped a well-crafted nine-shot rally, hitting a brilliant forehand winner that eluded Medvedev, and with it, he became the youngest Australian Open champion since Novak Djokovic in 2008.

Sinner collapsed in joy to the court after rallying from two sets down to beat Medvedev, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, for his fourth consecutive triumph over the Russian, who now resides with his wife and one-year-old daughter in Monaco. The South Tyrolean, who grew up on skis in San Candido and later traded them in for a tennis racquet, became the first Italian man since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open to win a Grand Slam title.

Also, Sinner’s is the first new name on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup since Stan Wawrinka in 2014, and he’s the 27th different men’s champion in the Open Era at the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Medvedev, whose only major title came at the 2021 US Open, fell to 1-5 in Grand Slam finals — but not for a lack of effort. He’s a three-time Australian Open finalist unfulfilled, having lost to Djokovic in 2021, Rafael Nadal in 2022 and now Sinner in 2024, whom he was six points at 4-all in the third set from winning the title.

The first two sets were characterized by Medvedev’s cleverness and attacking style, in which he broke his opponent three times in 11 opportunities. Then, the toll of being on court for more 30 sets and 24 hours spread over two weeks began to take its toll on the lanky No. 3 seed. His hard path through the draw was much more time consuming and taxing than it had been for fourth-seeded Sinner, who had played six fewer hours along the way and had lost only one set, during his semifinal victory over Djokovic.

By the fifth set, after he had staged a remarkable comeback from two sets down and battled his way through a 39-shot skirmish at 30-all in the first game, Sinner still had energy in his tank and used it efficiently. When he broke Medvedev for the fourth time, coming in the pivotal sixth game of the final set, it put him ahead 4-2 – and there was no looking back. As he persevered, Sinner kept getting smarter while Medvedev seemed more cursed.

Sinner finished the championship match with 50 winners to his name, including 14 aces, won 74 percent (65 of 88) of his first-serve points, converted four of nine break points and outpointed Medvedev by a single point, 142-141. Although Sinner made 49 unforced errors, Medvedev racked up 57 — far too many — which overshadowed his 11 aces and 44 winners.

“It always hurts to lose in the final,” Medvedev conveyed to the sold-out crowd at Rod Laver Arena after he congratulated Sinner and thanking his team, “about probably being in the final is better than losing before.”

Soon, it was Sinner’s turn to speak. “I hope you can also lift this trophy,” Sinner said, addressing Medvedev, “but I’m sure you can.”

Later on, Medvedev was asked during his news conference to describe the difference between how he felt after losing a thrilling five-hour-plus, five-setter to Nadal in 2022 after being up two sets and to Sinner today.

“Yeah, different feeling, different circumstances, I would say. Now I’m dreaming more than ever, probably not today, but in general in life,” said Medvedev, who lost to Nadal  2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

“But I would say it’s not anymore a kid who is dreaming. It’s me myself right now, a 27-year-old who is dreaming, and who’s doing everything that is possible for my future and for my present. I love it. That’s why I made it to the final. I wanted to win. I was close. Was I really close or not? Tough to say, but was not far.

“Yeah, the scoreline is similar but I think the match would be a bit different.”

Looking back, Medvedev said of Sinner: “He started playing better. I got a little bit tired. Serve went a little bit worse. So the momentum changed and I really tried in my mind to change it back again, because that’s what tennis is about.

“But I didn’t manage to do it, and that’s why he’s the winner and has the trophy.”

Over an hour after he lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and beamed his youthful smile to the crowd and a worldwide audience watching on TV, it was Sinner’s turn to speak at his champion’s news conference. He was asked if being a first-time Grand Slam champion had begun to sink in.

“It takes a little while to process everything. I’m extremely happy how I handled things today. The situation on court was very, very tough,” Sinner 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 in the TV, so I just tried my best. I was a little bit in trouble today with two sets to love down and in a little bit over one hour.

“So, I just tried to stay positive, trying to sticking to the game plan, which I had to adjust a little bit. Daniil is an incredible player, and he showed this also today again an incredible fighter. He spent so many hours on court. So I’m obviously sorry for him today, but for sure he will lift some more Grand Slam trophies.”

Tennis, as this Australian Open title match illustrated for us all, is a beautiful sport because you can’t predict the future. Medvedev knows it all too well and Sinner is just starting to learn this quality.

“I still have to process it, because it was, you know, beating Novak in the semis and then today Daniil in the final, they are tough players to beat,” Sinner said. “So it’s a great moment for me and my team, but in the other way, we also know that we have to improve if we want to have another chance to hold a big trophy again.

“So this is all, the process and the hard work occasionally will always pay off.”

Hsieh and Mertens capture AO women’s doubles title

No. 2 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens added to their Grand Slam title records on Sunday by winning the Australian Open women’s doubles title.

Hsieh, 38, of Taiwan, and Mertens, 28, defeated No. 11 seeds and first-time major finalists Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-1, 7-5, on Rod Laver Arena in an hour and 33 minutes.

“These are the stages you want to win,” Mertens said in her champion’s news conference. “As long as we still enjoy it and still get that motivation and everything, I think it’s just very important. … Of course, it’s a bit nerve-racking. You know, these matches are what you play for.”

It was the seventh major title in women’s doubles for Hsieh after previously winning four Wimbledon and two French Open crowns. On Friday, Hsieh also won her first mixed doubles title timed with Jan Zielinski of Poland.

“For me, most important is having some fun,” Hsieh said. “Sometime you can laugh, even [if you’re] losing 0-5 on the court, is not a big deal. It’s always teamwork.”

As for a Mertens, winning the Australian Open was her fourth major title in women’s doubles and first since she teamed with Hsieh to win Wimbledon in 2021. It’s her second Australian Open crown after winning the 2021 title with Aryna Sabalenka.

Mertens will reclaim WTA Doubles World No. 1 tomorrow after rising to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in 2021. Hsieh will move up to No. 2.

Sinner receives congratulations from The Rocket

Among the many congratulatory messages that Jannik Sinner received following his Australian Open victory were from Hall of Famer Rod Laver, who won the first Open Era Australian Open in 1969.

Around Melbourne Park

Australian Open 2024 set a main draw attendance record for this year its 15-day run at Melbourne by drawing 1,020,763 fans. The previous record of 839,192 was set last year.

Sunday’s twilight session attendance of 46,365 was a final Sunday Twilight session/men’s final attendance, which broke last year’s mark of 45,832.

A three-week Australian Open attendance record was established with 1,110,657 coming out to Melbourne Park for qualifying week plus the main draw of the tournament. It broke the 2023 three-week attendance record of 902,312.

By the numbers

At age 38 years and 24 days, Hsieh Su-Wei has become the second-oldest woman after Lisa Raymond, to win a Grand Slam doubles title. The American Raymond was eight days older when she won the 2011 US Open.

“Quotable …”

“I thought Daniil played an amazing tennis match considering what he’s been through physically at this tournament. We knew he would come out aggressively, a bit more aggressive than he normally plays, but we didn’t realize he was able to hold that level for so long, for the first couple of sets. …

“I thought Jannik composed himself, showed great character, took care of his service games, and he gave himself a chance. He did really well.”

–Coach Darren Cahill, during the champion’s news conference, on the belief that Jannik Sinner could mount a comeback after being two sets down.