Jannik Sinner a Indian Wells
Other than the blue derby at Indian Wells… The Italian fan’s dreams of enjoying a nice Berrettini vs. Sinner in the round of 16, with very intriguing prospects for the rest of the tournament, have been shattered since cyclone Taylor Fritz, hoisted himself to “kill Italians” in his California. The American ousted both Matteo and Jannik, one after the other, curiously the same score but in two very different games. It is right to applaud Taylor, more today than yesterday, because if Berrettini’s performance had been decidedly subdued, tonight Fritz played an excellent game, was overall superior to Sinner and widely deserved access to the Indian Wells quarterfinals..
Yet the match for Jannik had started very well, he was ahead, his tennis was running fast. Precise, intense, he charged forehands and backhands with power and got good points in pressing. He had carried on with merit. Up to 4-2 in the first set he had been superior in the push, less devastating than that admired in the debut of the tournament, but a good Sinner. Serving at 4-3, the match suddenly changed direction, ed unfortunately for the Azzurri, a “film already seen” in other defeats of the season was staged. The first ball has jammed… the signal of the impending pass. The arm has lost fluidity, the thrust has become less precise, the errors flock. A double fault on the break ball not only brings the set back into balance but physically puts a Fritz back into the game who was instead in difficulty at that moment in containing the blue’s thrust. A break given to the American, almost only unprovoked mistakes. It was the beginning of the descent into hell for Sinner, who made too many mistakes by serving under 4-5: a double fault to start the game, a right shot wide for too much haste and frenzy, a poorly managed lob-passer with a touch a bit clumsy for someone with his qualities; then to the advantages two other double faults. The two decisive points were taken by the American, with a very incisive pressing. 4 games in a row for Taylor and Set won, due to his crescendo initiated by Jannik’s errors and decline, unfortunately.
Here Fritz actually won the game, went up a lot with his serve and started to respond better, while that bad end of the first set definitely spoiled Jannik’s game, which became more foul.. Too foul, with the chance to run away at the start of the second wasted and therefore the break immediately in the second game, even here wasting more than one opportunity and playing almost only with the second serve. Too little to stem a Frtiz now “in the zone”. From 4-2 Sinner in the first, the blue lost 8 games in a row, up to 6-4 4-0 for the American. A hole too deep to go back to this level, which you cannot afford. With the defeat one step away, the blue finally freed his arm, recovered a break from disadvantage and physically returned to the game, more incisive with the forehand and deep in the exchange with the backhand, but it was too late. Bravo was the Californian to save two very delicate break points at 5-3 (Ace outside and nice exchange commanded by the center) that would have sensationally reopened the game, and then transform the first Match Point with a very nice long line backhand.
Jannik put his part in this defeat, but it is right to give Fritz credit for having raised the level as soon as Sinner dropped.. The American was very good at choosing fast game times, entering without delay with the right on Sinner’s first shorter ball. With the right cross he often broke through the blue to find angle and depth, and was surprised by the quantity of many backlashes shot with speed and precision. Overall, Fritz was superior to Sinner in early game shots, serve but also response, more continuous and less foul.
Tennis is a particular sport, of a situation, in which everything can change in an instant. There are days when things don’t go well, or when something gets jammed and you end up in a perverse vortex that makes you lose confidence and too many games, until you lose the game. It happens especially when you are in a moment of growth, in which you are putting your hand to your game from a technical and tactical point of view, and therefore you have not yet assimilated the news.. In those phases, it takes very little to get lost, with the risk of returning conservative to the old schemes and mechanics, making mistakes and wrong choices. Growth in tennis is always on scales, never linear. There are moments when you have confidence, when everything flows and produces wonders on the pitch; others in which you do not have good feelings or you get lost along the way for a detail, for an uncertainty, for a doubt, and it is difficult at that point to recover because without having lived that feeling over and over again, you do not know what to hold on to, it grows the voltage and you see only black. It looks like what happened to Sinner today. On a regular basis, though.
Which? Jannik’s tennis can’t do without the serve. I am not just talking about the “easy” points, directly torn with the first one. The “concept” of service in his game is broader. When he picks up the pace with the first serve, all his tennis flows because with the first on the court he manages to start the exchange in an advantageous position, mentally he is more relaxed, his shots flow more fluid and precise. Sinner produces difficult tennis on the court, shoot balls with great power while taking high risks. Playing loose is very important. The certainty of starting with the first on the pitch is decisive. It is evident that the work undertaken with his staff is to equip him with a very high-paced and less risky exchange capacity, a 70-80% speed with a good margin., and then away in knowing how to choose the moment for the lunge, the change from the overwhelming progression in search of the winner if the pure pressing did not produce the rival’s error. This process requires continuity and trust. It is necessary to insist, and I repeat, it is anything but easy tennis because it is played at very intense rhythms and the opponents do – obviously – the impossible to spoil the rhythm and find the key to get out of it.
Due to the high intrinsic risk component in this tactical scheme, it is crucial to be able to rely on incisive early game shots, service but also response.. Even in response today Sinner did not convince. Very well in some phases (the initial one and the last reaction before the defeat), too imprecise in the central part of the match, where Fritz was able to manage his shifts with discrete ease, playing very well the break points to save.
There is disappointment for the defeat, Sinner has a tennis superior in quality to that of Fritz, but today he has not managed to produce it with the necessary continuity to overcome his rival. It would be wrong to overdo the criticism, especially by insinuating doubts about the growth process. Jannik is changing the serve, he is changing the dynamics of pushing in the progression, he is insisting on many small things to refine and metabolize, in order to explode them under pressure, in the decisive moments. Let’s wait for him at the next tournaments in Europe, hoping that he can explode his class and give himself (and give us) a sensational qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. If it does not happen, never mind. We look forward to a 2022 that could be spectacular.