Even without ATP Finals appearance, Jannik Sinner can be proud of 2021 achievements

The 20-year-old Jannik Sinner is in with an outside chance of making the ATP Finals. But his 2021 season has been excellent regardless.

Jannik Sinner in a file photo. (Image: Twitter/@ATPTour)

The race to the ATP Finals in November is very much on for the top-ranked male tennis players. And, among the slots which are as of now undecided, another name has now cropped up: Jannik Sinner.

Yes, the 20-year-old Italian is now in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings after his victory at the European Open final in Belgium. He beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-2 in a relatively straightforward affair and improved his ranking to 10th.

It is worth noting that his ranking as of now isn’t enough to guarantee him a spot. However, he can easily make up the two ranking spots required to get himself into contention.

As of now, there are four ATP events remaining in the calendar year. There’s the ongoing Erste Bank Open in Vienna, where Sinner will be in action. This is followed by the St. Petersburg Open in Rusia.

November will see the final ATP Masters event of the year take place in Paris, followed by the final tournament before the Finals – the Stockholm Open in Sweden.

Assuming Sinner collects enough points in these events, he could well be booking himself a ticket to Turin. He’s headed to Milan regardless, since he is eligible for the Next Gen ATP Finals.

The aim for now, of course, would be to mix it up with the world’s best. But it is important to also acknowledge the kind of season he’s had regardless of an ATP Final slot.

2021 – breakout year for Jannik Sinner?

Sinner first caught the attention of fans when he made it to the quarterfinals of the 2020 French Open. He would eventually lose out to Rafael Nadal, who finished the tournament as runner-up.

But the fact the then 19-year-old even made it that far was surprising. To prove he was no flash in the pan, Sinner then won the Sofia Open at the end of the year. It was the first final he ever made, and he saw off a spirited challenge from Vasek Pospisil to win his maiden career title.

He wouldn’t have to wait long to add to his trophy cabinet. He made the finals of the Great Ocean Road Open in Australia, where he beat compatriot Stefano Travaglia in straight sets.

Amazingly, he then made the finals of the Miami Masters 1000 event, where he lost to Hubert Hurkacz. But making the final was in itself quite the accomplishment.

Not that Sinner was content to rest on his laurels. A win in the Washington Open final over Mackenzie McDonald saw him claim his maiden ATP 500 trophy. He then defended his Sofia Open crown with a win over Gael Monfils.

His most recent title win came at the European Open, which saw him notch up a notable feat. Sinner is now the youngest man since Novak Djokovic in 2007 to capture five ATP titles.

The Serb was 19 when he pulled off the feat, but such records only mean that Sinner is heading in the right direction, career wise.

That being said, there is still room for improvement ahead of 2022.

Grand Slam progress the next aim

Look, no one is going to sit here and claim that Jannik Sinner needs to be piling on Grand Slam wins at this age. But there is a legitimate argument to be made about bettering his record.

That being said, he has shown demonstrable quality in Grand Slam tennis through 2021 – even if his quarterfinal showing at Roland Garros 2020 remains his best outing till date.

2021 started well enough, as he demonstrated plenty of skill and guts in the Australian Open. He may have been knocked out in the first round, but his showing against Denis Shapovalov was one to be proud of.

He took the match to a deciding fifth set despite being 2-1 down with two sets remaining. Given that Shapovalov was seeded while Sinner wasn’t, it can be termed a reasonably good outing.

The French Open saw him make the fourth round before again falling to Nadal. Again, this was a good showing; the best of players at the top of their games have struggled against the Spaniard on clay.

The US Open also saw him lose out to a much superior opponent in Alexander Zverev in Round 4. Arguably the only real blip came in Wimbledon.

There he lost to journeyman player Marton Fucsovics in the first round. Fucsovics, it must be noted, has won just the one tennis title that came in Geneva – in 2018. To make things worse, the Hungarian was unseeded whereas Sinner was seeded 19th.

Winning ATP events is excellent given his age, but Sinner’s talent and potential is such that further improvement should always be the goal.

Should he manage to do so, Sinner will doubtless look back at 2021 as the defining year of his career.

Shayne Dias

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