Fast-rising teenager Jannik Sinner won his first Grand Slam match Tuesday and basked in praise from Roger Federer, who said “we’ll see a lot more of” the Italian.
The 18-year-old, a former champion skier before switching to tennis, swept past Australian Max Purcell 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-4 at the Australian Open.
The win reinforced Sinner’s credentials after he won the NextGen ATP Finals in Milan last November — a tournament that features the eight best men’s players aged 21 or under.
His progress has caught the eye of 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, who said: “I think we’ll see so much more from him. He’s an exciting guy and super-sweet kid, which I always love to see.”
Rafael Nadal has also taken note.
The Spanish world number one said he had seen a lot of promising teenagers fail to live up to their potential, but he felt Sinner was different.
“Personally I think that this will not be the case because my feeling he’s a humble guy, he’s a hard worker. I practised with him the other day, he has a good character on court, he’s positive,” he said.
“I see him having a great tennis career. He has everything to achieve a great tennis career. The only thing that he needs to do, in my opinion, is have the right people around and work.”
Sinner, the youngest player in the year-end top 80 last year since a 17-year-old Nadal in 2003, said he was honoured by the comments.
“What he (Federer) said is nice for me. But, you know, we still have to work,” said Sinner, who was speaking before Nadal lavished praise.
‘I have to learn everything’
Federer played with Sinner, who made his Grand Slam debut at last year’s US Open, losing in the first round to Stan Wawrinka, in Rome last year and also practised with him after the Laureus sports awards in Monaco.
“What I like about him is that he’s almost got the same speed of off-shot on forehand, backhand,” said the Swiss great on Monday.
“He has great footwork for a big guy because we forget how tall he is, as well.
“And then he can play, again, like most of the best movers in the game right now, he can also play open stance and closed stance, which I think is a huge advantage for movement for the future.”
Sinner, who is coached by Riccardo Piatti, who has previously worked with Novak Djokovic, Ivan Ljubicic, and Milos Raonic, welcomed Federer’s input but said he was still improving.
“Because I’m young, forehand and backhand are quite solid. The shot is getting better and better, which is our goal,” he said.
“And of course there will be matches where maybe you cannot feel the shot so you have to maybe slow down a little bit, trying to find another solution. You cannot play the whole match with the same speed.
“You have to change a little bit the ball some heights, which I have to learn. I have to learn everything.”
The 82nd-ranked Sinner next faces Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who upset Canadian world number 13 Denis Shapovalov in the first round.