08:49 PM GMT November 08, 2019
The story of Jannik Sinner watching last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals from the stands has been well-documented, but the Italian hasn’t experienced the championship match in Milan, even as a spectator.
That will change this year as the 18-year-old wild card continued his dream run on Friday, scoring a 2-4, 4-1, 4-2, 4-2 semi-final win over Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic. Sinner fired 24 winners and won 71 per cent of his service points en route to advancing in 75 minutes. The win had an extra layer of emotion because it took place on the same day his coach, Riccardo Piatti, celebrated turning 61.
“It’s unbelievable. I didn’t feel so well in the beginning and he was playing very good, very aggressive. I’ve never had this kind of feeling, so I’m very happy,” Sinner said. “I think I’ve done a great job.”
Sinner will take on top seed Alex de Minaur for the title. The Aussie holds an 8-1 record at this event and has reached back-to-back finals in Milan, but Sinner is confident he can bring his best tennis for one more match.
“He played an unbelievable season,” Sinner said of his opponent. “He’s won three [ATP Tour] tournaments. I’ll just try my best.”
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Kecmanovic admitted before the match that he expected the Milan crowd to pull for Sinner, but he didn’t give them a chance to get involved in the opening set. The Serbian dictated the baseline rallies as Sinner struggled to find the timing on his serve. A backhand error from the Italian at 1-1 gave Kecmanovic an early break and he rode the slight advantage to an early lead.
After words of encouragement at the changeover from Piatti, Sinner came out swinging in the second set. He added more depth to his shots and was rewarded with a break at 1-2, yelling in approval after a Kecmanovic backhand landed long. The crowd at the Allianz Cloud rose to its feet after Sinner comfortably held in the next game to level the match.
The Italian continued his momentum in the third set and opened with an immediate break to love, then rallied from 0/40 in the next game with a stream of forehand winners and big serves. Sinner continued to prevail in the critical moments of the match, winning five of six deciding points on the night, including on his serve at 3-2 to take a commanding advantage.
Growing in confidence with each game, Sinner charged the net and knocked off a backhand volley to break at 1-1 in the fourth set. Kecmanovic bravely saved three match points on his serve at 1-3, but a forehand volley from Sinner in the next game wrapped up play.