The hat was blue. The hair was red. The shirt was yellow. The raw, unadulterated talent was both unassuming and overflowing.
The first time I laid eyes on Jannik Sinner was Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, at the Monte Carlo Country Club. I was there with Novak Djokovic, completing a training week to prepare for the 2018 season. Novak had not hit a ball since July when he retired against Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon with an elbow injury.
It was time to test the elbow and also welcome new coaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek to the fold. Novak had hit on Friday and Saturday and I was doing a lot of video analysis of Novak’s strokes to make sure everything was in working order.
Novak liked to hit with two juniors who could collectively keep up with him in practice. One of the juniors this Sunday morning was a 16-year-old who looked like he was ready to hit the beach. The picture below is right at the beginning of practice.
Jannik was training at the Piatti Tennis Center nearby in Italy under the tutelage of Ricardo Piatti. I started in 2017 as the strategy analyst for the Italian Federation, so it was nice to meet his Italian coach who quickly made me aware that Jannik is an extremely promising Italian junior. I remember the coach smiling at me saying “Keep your eye on him.” All I could see at that stage was a huge mop of red hair…
While recording Novak’s practice, I got a little of Jannik hitting as well. Here’s the clip.
Dec 3, 2017: Jannik Sinner hitting at the Monte Carlo Country Club
That was December 2017. In the next two years and two months, he will go from being unranked to the Top 70 in the world. He now finds himself in his first Masters 1000 event in Miami as a 19-year-old.
Here’s his timeline.
- Jan – Played his first Future in Egypt.
- May – Won two matches in a row for the first time.
- Aug – Broke into the top 1000.
- Feb – Wins a $50K Challenger in Bergamo, Italy & is ranked #324.
- Feb – Wins a $25K Challenger the next week in Trento, Italy.
- Feb – Wins a $25K Challenger the next week in Italy. That’s 16 straight wins.
- May – Beats #59 Steve Johnson 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 in Rd1 Rome Masters.
- Jul – Breaks into the Top 200.
- Jul – Wins a $50K Challenger in Lexington, Kentucky.
- Oct – Beats #79 P. Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4 in Vienna. Breaks into the Top 100.
- Nov – Wins the NEXTGen ATP Finals in Milan.
- Nov – Wins a $50K Challenger in Ortisei, Italy, and is ranked #78.
- Feb – First Top 10 win: 7-6(7), 7-5 over #10 David Goffin in Rotterdam.
- Feb – Career-high ranking of #68.
- Sep – Second Top 10 win 6-1, 6-7(9), 6-2 over #6 Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rome Masters 1000
- Sep – Third Top 10 win – 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 over Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros
- Nov – First ATP Title – won Sofia ATP 250.
- Dec – Finished the season ranked #37.
- Jan – Second ATP Title = won Melbourne 1 ATP 250.
- Apr – Finalist at Miami Masters 1000