AO 2024 – Day 15: Sinner Melbourne's last man standing

The Italian lifted his maiden Grand Slam with an exhilarating five-set comeback against Danill Medvedev.

Jannik Sinner / Champion Open d'Australie 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Down a set and 5-1, it looked like Jannik Sinner's first Grand Slam final was going to end in a crushing defeat.

His joint-coach Darren Cahill called out to his charge, "weather the storm," and Sinner responded in kind.

The 22-year-old, riding an Italian wave of support, somehow erased Daniil Medvedev's commanding lead 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to write his name into the history books.

"Pressure is a privilege"

Sinner is the first Italian man or woman to ever win the Australian Open singles title. He certainly earned his major moment.

"I like to dance in the pressure storm," said Sinner, searching for a way to describe his mental fortitude, before channelling the legendary Billie Jean King.

"There is always pressure, but you have to take it in a good way. I like it, because that's where most of the time I bring out my best tennis. I'm also quite relaxed in this occasion, because I always try to enjoy on the court.

"I think pressure is a privilege, to be honest."

He was under pressure from the off. 2021-22 finalist Medvedev had endured nearly 21 hours on court en route to the final and needed to go for broke to retain resources. 

Medvedev was proactive, playing completely against his instincts, up on the baseline and clattering groundstrokes with 10-20 km/h more velocity than usual.

Despite losing their past three encounters, the US Open 2021 champion had the major experience, competing in his sixth Grand Slam final and he executed a tactical masterclass to build that two-sets lead.

Into the third set and Sinner was beginning to find his spots, in sharp contrast to Medvedev looking increasingly beleaguered from his marathon man exploits this fortnight.

Prolonging the rallies, striking with more conviction, Sinner was hustling. Having 'weathered the storm' to snatch away set, it was time for the 22-year-old to dictate play.

On the front foot, Sinner's serving stats rocketed up, Medvedev's dropped, the Italian was spreading the play and biding his time.

Fourth set in the bag, the momentum was well and truly with Sinner in the decider. The No.4 seed prevailing in a 41-shot rally as the pick of the bunch in a catalogue of draining duels.

By this point Medvedev had accumulated 24 hours on court in Melbourne, whereas Sinner was relatively fresh and pinged a backhand pass, then crunched a forehand winner cross court, to steal the pivotal 4-2 break.

It was Sinner, falling to the court in a star shape, realising he was a Grand Slam champion.

"I just enjoy to play tennis"

"For sure it will take a little while to process everything. I'm extremely happy how I handled things today. The situation on court was very, very tough," declared the 22-year-old. "I just tried to stay positive."

Sinner guided Italy to Davis Cup glory in November, their first triumph since 1976. That same year was the last time Italy had a male singles major winner, with Adriano Panatta ruling Roland-Garros.

Flying his country's flag is an integral part of patriotic Sinner's success.

"It means a lot. Maybe the most important. Because the support I get throughout already years, it's incredible. I feel like that they push me also, that I can believe in myself," added Sinner, hailing his fans back home and in the stands. 

"It was going so fast, I was two sets to love down, but all the people who came there to watch, I had to at least try to make it a match somehow."

The 22-year-old, renowned for his modest, relaxed persona, also paid tribute to his family, for creating a comfortable environment for his success.  

"They never put pressure on me, which is maybe the key why I'm here today," said Sinner, who left home at 14 to pursue his dream. "I'm a very, quite relaxed man, who just enjoys to play tennis. They are the perfect parents."

A home hero, the feel-good family unit, the coaching unity under the tutelage of Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill, all these factors have combined to launch Sinner from outside bet to a Grand Slam winner.

To lift the trophy on Sunday night, Sinner had to overcome three Top 5 players in a row, highlighted by his four-sets dismissal of defending champion Novak Djokovic.

It was the first Australian Open final without a 'Big Three' member since 2005, another significant sign that the landscape of men's tennis is shifting to the youth ranks.

"It's already been a hell of a journey to now, even though I'm only 22," reflected the world No.4, the first new men's singles champion Down Under since Stan Wawrinka in 2014.

"I still have to process it, because beating Novak in the semis and then Daniil in the final, they are tough players to beat. It's a great moment for me and my team."

All these milestones, all these major moments, Sinner continues to take it all in his stride.

"I feel it's part of the game," stated Sinner, knowing he'll face greater scrutiny and expectations with his latest triumph.

"I'm extremely happy that I am in this position now. I have a great team behind me, we were talking already after the match that we can improve still.

"It's all part of the process. Obviously having this trophy, it's an amazing feeling, I'm very grateful. But I know that I have to work even harder, because the opponents, they will find the way to beat me and I have to be prepared. Let's see what's coming in the future."

Medvedev deserves more than a mention for his mind-boggling performances this fortnight. 

Even in such heartbreak – becoming the first player in the Open Era to lose multiple Grand Slam finals from two sets up – the 27-year-old still found a silver lining.

"It hurts to lose in the final but being in the final is better than losing before," joked Medvedev, having lost the 2022 Australian Open final to Rafael Nadal from the same advantage.

"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. Was I really close or not? Tough to say, but was not far.

"I'm ready for the next step this season. Still strong start."