In front of an impassioned home support in Turin, Jannik Sinner claimed an epic maiden victory over Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals.
It was a highly anticipated contest between two of the best players in the world and it lived up to the billing over more than three hours of incredible tennis and drama as the crowd roared their hero onto success.
Momentum swung this way and that but in the end Sinner would not be denied as he wrapped up a 7-5 6-7(5) 7-6(2) victory to top the Green Group and end Djokovic’s 19-match winning streak.
“It means a lot to me. When you win against the world No. 1 who has won 24 Grand Slams, it’s obviously at the top,” Sinner said.
“I felt like it was a really tactical match but I managed to win so I’m very happy.”
Both held serve comfortably to start the match before Djokovic forged the first break point in the sixth game but Sinner saved it with an ace and went on to hold to level at 3-3.
The Italian then turned the aggressor, forcing Djokovic into some uncharacteristic mistakes to earn a break point of his own. But just like the Serbian before him, he was unable to find a way through as the opening set moved towards a tense finale.
The standard remained high and it was Sinner who created the next opportunity after fighting back from 40-0 down at 5-5 on Djokovic’s serve.
Cheers from the partisan crowd after a double fault at deuce were met with a sarcastic clap from Djokovic and the volume was cranked up even higher when Sinner made the most of his opponent’s lapse to move a break clear at 6-5.
And the 22-year-old made no mistake to close out the first set, doing what Djokovic could not and holding to love to take a deserved lead just shy of the hour mark.
Into the second, and Djokovic threatened to move 3-1 ahead after forcing 0-30 on Sinner’s serve but the Italian once again found a way to keep his foe at bay.
Sinner then navigated another deuce game to level at 3-3 as Djokovic continued to gesticulate his frustration towards the crowd.
A timely love hold at 4-5 would have been a welcome relief for Sinner but he was back under pressure at 5-6 as Djokovic looked to take the contest into a decider.
The Serbian forced deuce with a well-placed volley but he could not create the opportunity to clinch the set as Sinner forced a tie-break.
Sinner moved 2-0 and 3-2 clear in the breaker as he edged towards a maiden victory over the 24-time Grand Slam champion, but Djokovic once again showed why he is a man for the big occasions.
The Serbian opened up two set points at 6-4 and took it at the second time of asking as the boos echoed around centre court.
Despite levelling the match, Djokovic was far from his usual composed self and took exception with the umpire for failing to call a let on a Sinner serve that won the Italian the first game of the third set.
But both continued to bring something like the best in each other. An outrageous backhand passing shot down the line on the stretch helped Sinner hold to lead 3-2, before a brace of pinpoint returns at 15-30 on the Djokovic serve earned a break.
The renowned resilience of Djokovic would not be broken, though, and he responded immediately to get back on serve.
Sinner then dug deep to hold for 6-5 from 15-30 down and the match got the ending it deserved when Djokovic sent it into a tie-break.
Once again it was the home hero who made the better start in the breaker, moving 5-0 clear with a series of sensational ground strokes.
A rare Djokovic error brought up five match points for Sinner and he clinched it with a thundering smash to send the crowd into a frenzy and leave the Green Group finely poised.
Read the full article here