JANNIK SINNER’S INCREDIBLE comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, in last night’s Australian Open final was a monument to physical stamina, as well as astonishing reserves of mental strength.
At two sets to nil down the Italian looked like he would be packing his bags but he managed to turn things around in the third set and once his serve and formidable baseline game kicked in, began dominating his more seasoned Russian opponent.
Sinner had shown similar resolve after thwarting a third-set comeback in his semi-final against Grand Slam GOAT Novak Djokovic. Despite throwing away match point in the third-set tiebreaker, he steeled himself, not allowing the Serb to gain momentum, to close out the match in the fourth set.
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So, how did the beanpole-built Italian manage to break through to win his first Grand Slam?
For one, he has seriously improved his footwork, a major piece of the puzzle for a man who stands at 6’ 2” or 188cm. Throughout the AO, Sinner demonstrated remarkable court coverage and basically became the resolute backboard that Djokovic has long been, running down what looked like certain winners and extending points, time and again.
Ladder drills such as the one shown in this video help build agility and the fast feet you need to change direction and scamper back in the opposite direction to run down balls. He’s also shown doing the kind of track drills you would expect of an Olympic sprinter, as well ring pull-ups, weighted sled pulls, medicine ball crossovers and a number of explosive movements on blocks to increase speed and reaction time.
Sinner has acknowledged that his body needed work. “For sure we have a lot of work to do, still,” he said. “I give my body a lot of time to develop. But for sure now I am in a much, much better position than I was one year ago. We take care of quite everything. I also know my body better, when to practice or when maybe to do only gym.”
Mentally, Sinner has previously credited his success to a method known as Formula Medicine, an Italian mental training program used by Formula 1 drivers, in which a computer calculates the player’s brain usage during exercises, aiding in completing tasks efficiently with minimal cognitive effort. In a sport that requires repeated bouts of intense concentration sustained over matches that can last up to five hours, conserving mental energy is critical to success. The training method also signals that AI maybe infiltrating elite sport; watch this space.
Sinner dealt with myriad injuries in 2022. But from the end of last year the Italian has been cooking, beating Djokovic twice towards the end of 2023, victories that would have instilled confidence going into Friday’s semi-final.
Now, with a Grand Slam title under his belt, that confidence is set to skyrocket and as his body continues to develop, it may be him rather than Carlos Alcaraz who shapes as the leader of tennis’ next generation.