Two years later, Italian tennis will try again to celebrate Easter in the best possible way. In 2019 in Monte Carlo Fabio Fognini, after having literally shot Rafa Nadal in the semifinal, entered the history of tennis by beating Serbian Dusan Lajovic in the final and becoming the first Italian to win a Masters 1000 / Masters Series / Super 9 since this tournament category has been officially established.
It will be up to Jannik Sinner (1 pm local time, 19 Italian) try to repeat Fabio’s feat in Miami. Sinner will take the field against the Pole Hubert Hurkacz to win his first 1000 in his third participation, his first on hardcourt.
If two years ago Fognini’s victory in Montecarlo seemed to be the demonstration of the competitive maturity of the Ligurian tennis player, who had finally added the necessary physical and mental continuity to his talent to accomplish a similar feat, all the experts seem to agree in foreseeing that the Miami final for Jannik is the launching pad in tennis that counts, the gradual approach to the top positions of the ranking that the skills of the young man from Trentino have always predicted. Already with the final Sinner is certain to become number 21 in the world, the title would project him in 14th position.
THE NEW ERA OF ITALIAN TENNIS
If Fabio had conquered Montecarlo on his beloved clay, loved not only by Fognini but traditionally by all Italian tennis players, Sinner’s exploit on the fast takes us into a new era of our tennis, the one in which we now have a movement (from tomorrow we will have 10 tennis players among the top 100 in the world) that manages to collect satisfaction on all surfaces. With our athletes, we have entered by right into the new dimension of tennis, the universal one in which we must know how to do ourselves on every surface. And as enthusiasts we come to say, finally.
Both finalists are used to not failing at the last act. Jannik won the two previous matches, in Sofia last year and in the Melbourne 1 tournament this year against Travaglia; Hurkacz, no. 37 ATP (before Miami, now it will become at least 25), he won in Winston-Salem in 2019 and in Delray Beach this year (without, however, facing the top 100 along the way), proving however a certain predilection for the East Coast. Hurkacz is a tough tennis player, with excellent athletic skills despite his height, explosive from the baseline (although perhaps not like Sinner), but the four top 20 beaten in the tournament (two top 10 in a row between quarter and semifinal) are the demonstration that the Pole did not reach the final by chance.
On Sinner’s precocity records (complete with ambitious comparisons) has been said in recent days of everything more. Recall that it is his third participation in a Masters 1000 and only the Israeli Levy and the Polish Janowicz managed to reach the final in a tournament of this category before the third appearance, both on their debut (Levy in Toronto in 2000, Janowicz in Paris indoor in 2012). Sinner is the youngest finalist in a Masters 1000 since 2005 (Rafa Nadal in Madrid) and is the second youngest in the final in Miami, always behind the Spaniard who at 18 was a finalist in Florida in 2005.
There is no precedent between the two tennis players, who have also been doubles partners in two tournaments this 2021 and therefore not only have a great relationship off the pitch (Sinner said he is his best friend on the circuit) but they know each other quite well from a technical point of view. It will be the fifth youngest final in terms of age of the finalists in the 36-year history of the Miami tournament, a particular ranking led by that of 1991 in which Jim Courier and David Wheaton challenged each other.
Hurkacz is five years older than Sinner. In the Masters 1000 he had never gone beyond the quarter-finals (Indian Wells in 2019) and like Sinner, after Miami, he will reach his best ranking which was previously the 28th position reached in February of this year. Somehow Hurkacz is the heir of Jerzy Janowicz (mentioned earlier, finalist in Paris Bercy and semifinalist at Wimbledon), thirty years old, who like Hurkacz is a very powerful player but has been limited by many physical problems; more and more, Hurkacz seems to be able to take up the legacy of Wojtek Fibak, perhaps the most famous representative (male) of Polish tennis, an excellent player at the time of Panatta and Barazzutti, former top 10 and also a good doubler in the 70 ‘and 80’. Fibak boasts 77 finals played in the specialty and has been twice winner of the specialty Master.
Hurkacz’s journey to Miami was anything but straightforward. From seed # 26 he beat the American Kudla in the 1st round, then Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic (in the third set), Stefanos Tsitsipas (recovering a set and a break behind) and in the semifinals the Russian Andrey Rublev, one of the best players of the moment. Great serve, great physical shape, from the baseline he is very powerful. Only Jean-Michael Gambill managed to reach the finals in Delray Beach and Miami (which are just 90 kilometers away) in the same year, winning the first and losing the second (as Italians, we hope Hurkacz will imitate him!) Counting the net path of Delray Beach, Hurkacz therefore boasts a 9-0 record in Florida; as Tomasz Tomaszewski confirmed in theinterview with the director Scanagatta, for training Hurkacz is based in Florida and in 2020 he spent five months there, in the midst of the pandemic. Therefore he is very used to the environment, as well as to the climate.
Sinner had a simpler draw on paper. Overwhelmed the French Gaston, won the marathon with Khachanov in the second round, beat the emerging Finn Ruusuvuori with ease, eliminated the whimsical Kazakh Bublik in two “hard” sets in the quarters and then won the most difficult match of his tournament, the semifinal against the Spanish “robot” Bautista-Agut with a real top 10 performance especially in terms of mental.
The final appears very balanced and it is trivial to say that whoever starts off better as an approach, paying no duty to emotion for the really high stakes, will probably become the favorite along the way. From this point of view it is true that Hurkacz is more mature and has more experience in the circuit, but Jannik (we have said this several times) he seems much more experienced than his age and background suggest. Patriotism aside, Sinner still looks a bit favorite (bookmakers think the same way) and ready to hit the top 20 to take off. Appointment at 7 pm, live on Sky Sport Arena (channel 204).
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