Sinner pulls clear after great escape

Italian No.11 seed saves 11 set points en route to third-round triumph over McDonald

Jannik Sinner, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Jannik Sinner’s flawless first-week record in Paris remains intact but not undented following an almighty mid-match scare against Mackenzie McDonald on Saturday.

The Italian rallied from 2-5 down and saved 11 set points on his way to a 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-3 third-round triumph over the 60th-ranked American.

It marked the third straight year Sinner has advanced to the second week at Roland-Garros – his most successful major – with a showdown against No.7 seed Andrey Rublev the reward.

Two years ago, Sinner made a remarkable debut when he surprised seeds David Goffin and Alexander Zverev.

It took eventual champion Rafael Nadal to halt the then 18-year-old in the quarter-finals and again in the fourth round in 2021.

A return to the last eight is now within sight.

It was a performance that required his most stubborn resistance to salvage a dramatic second set, composure amid treatment for a left leg injury, and focus as he finally pulled clear of the increasingly deflated American.

Jannik Sinner Roland-Garros 2022 3e tour©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Story of the match

McDonald had never passed the second round in Paris and had registered just a couple of wins on the surface leading in.

In the previous round however, he took down No.22 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili for his best showing at Roland-Garros.

Bad blisters had forced Sinner out of Indian Wells and Miami and upon the switch to clay, he compiled a respectable 8-3 record ahead of his third Roland-Garros, with quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo and Rome the highlights.

After a slow start to his second-round clash with Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, the Italian was determined not to fall into the same trap again.

The first break came when he easily passed the American on a sharp, dipping backhand return for 4-2.

While his 27-year-old opponent showed great wheels to extend the exchanges in the opening set, the Italian gradually took the reins and with it the set in 44 minutes.

Mackenzie McDonald, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Service holds proved a mammoth mission for McDonald in the second set. He survived a 15-minute struggle to hold before tipping momentum in his corner for his first break at 3-2.

Sinner was hanging on by the skin of his teeth when he fended off five set points on serve at 2-5 before he saved five more to break in the subsequent game in another 15-minute battle.

Having started the match with strapping beneath his left knee, the 20-year-old made a quick pit stop to have his leg worked on before set point No.11 eluded McDonald.

When the pair headed to the tie-break there was an air of inevitability.

Sinner’s elation upon stealing an 89-minute set was more akin to sealing the contest.

He had narrowly held off his opponent in their only prior clash, for the title in Washington last August, and his superiority under the pump again proved decisive.

Sinner’s second-set great escape merely emboldened him and took the wind out of McDonald’s sails as he closed it out after two hours, 51 minutes.

Key stats

In a contest closer than the scoreline suggested, the 11th seed was more effective when it mattered and held the edge on serve.

The 11 missed set-point opportunities dealt a crushing blow to McDonald’s resolve in the third set.

Sinner won 75 per cent of first-serve points to his opponent’s 61 per cent but his 40 winners and 49 unforced errors were eight more than McDonald’s respective tallies.

What the players said

Jannik Sinner: "I think both of us were not feeling well on the court but I'm very happy to be through to win today, that I found a solution.

"I think I served very well today, especially in the important moments, and I’m obviously very happy that I broke him immediately in the third set. [It was] under three hours, so I'm happy. Let's see the next match how it goes but it's obviously going to be very tough.

“I always feel well here in Paris. First year with full crowds so it's very special for me to play here.”