Sinner vs Kotov: Things we learned

The second-seeded Italian remains perfect at the Slams in 2024

Jannik Sinner, third round, Roland-Garros 2024©Julien Crosnier / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

A Roland-Garros snippet: Jannik Sinner walks from his chair after a changeover like he’s out for a post-prandial passeggiata. The Italian is a picture of calm – is he even breathing? – but don’t let his casual air fool you. The world No.2 is serious about every single aspect of his tennis, and it showed on Friday inside Court Phillipe-Chatrier.

Sinner clicked through the gears, tapped the accelerator only when needed, and raced off to another uncomplicated Grand Slam victory. 

Read on to learn more about Sinner’s 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Pavel Kotov

10 on the trot, and No.1 in his sights 

All eyes are on Sinner and world No.1 Novak Djokovic as the business end of RG24 approaches. On Friday, the 2024 Australian Open champion recorded his tenth consecutive Grand Slam victory and improved to 31-2 on the season. 

Already the highest-ranked Italian in history, second-seeded Sinner has a chance to surpass Djokovic in the rankings after this year’s tournament. He can do it himself by reaching the final, and even if he fails to make the title round, Sinner will rise to No.1 if Djokovic doesn’t manage to reach the final. 

Sinner took the next step in his quest on Friday with impressive ease, calmly navigating the Kotov challenge with a stunning array of variety, touch and power. 

He cracked 36 winners against 21 unforced errors, saved the only break point he faced and converted a break in each set – three of 13 in total – to waltz to the finish line in just under two and a half hours. 

The 22-year-old will face Frenchman Corentin Moutet or Austria’s Sebastian Ofner in the round of 16. 

A clay guru? 

In 2020 Sinner made his initial foray on the Parisian terre battue by advancing to his first career Grand Slam quarter-final on his debut. By doing so Sinner became the first Roland-Garros debutant to reach the last eight since the great Rafael Nadal in 2005. 

It’s not difficult to see why the Italian excels on the surface. A champion skier in his youth, Sinner is an expert at sliding on the clay canvas – he frequently leaves decorative slash marks of up to 10 metres and his ease at getting in and out of the corners of the court means he's rarely caught out of position.

Sinner blanketed the court against Kotov on Friday and gave the 25-year-old very little space to attack. It all added up to a dominant victory that improved his overall record at Roland-Garros to 14-4 (9-1 on clay in 2024).

A fine beginning at the Parisian Slam, with the best yet to come. 

Staying hip 

All eyes have been on the status of Sinner’s injured right hip since he was forced to pull out of Madrid in early May, then subsequently skipped his home tournament in Rome. 

After his first-round match the Italian said the injury was behind him. 

“I came here, and I said if I played a first-round match, I only play if the hip is 100 percent,” he said, before adding that the bigger challenge would be to play himself back into form in Paris. 

“The hip seems good,” he said. “I'm very happy about that. The general shape, as I said before already, is not where I want to be, but  it takes time.” 

We must take him at his word. 

He moved exceptionally well on Friday and, most importantly, got off the court in two hours and 27 minutes. Sinner hasn’t dropped a set in three rounds and has needed just six hours and 51 minutes of court time to reach the second week.