January 28, 2024

‘Special young kid’: Cahill says Sinner has what it takes to be a superstar

By Marc McGowan
January 29, 2024 — 3.53am
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Jannik Sinner’s Australian coach Darren Cahill is convinced the Italian can be one of tennis’ next superstars as the new Australian Open champion reveals he likes to “dance in the pressure storm”.

The 22-year-old recovered from two sets down on Sunday night in the biggest match of his life to inflict Russian star Daniil Medvedev’s third defeat in a Melbourne Park final in a 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 result across almost four hours.

Jannik Sinner holds his Australian Open trophy.Credit: AP

Sinner left home at age 14 to train at his former coach Riccardo Piatti’s academy and was saddled with lofty expectations as a teenage prodigy, including predictions he would be a future grand slam winner.

“There is always pressure, but the pressure is something good. You have to take it in a good way. It’s a privilege, no?” Sinner said.

“There are not so many players who have this kind of pressure, but in the other way, when you have pressure, it’s always, ‘OK, he believes that I can really do it’. So, yes, I like to dance in the pressure storm.


“Me, personally, I like it because that’s where most of the time I bring out my best tennis. I’m also quite relaxed on this occasion because I always try to enjoy on the court, so I think pressure is a privilege, to be honest.”

Sinner won his maiden ATP Challenger title at 17 years and six months in February 2019, and received the ATP newcomer of the year award by season’s end after breaking into the top 100 and winning the Next Generation ATP Finals in Milan.

A year later, he was inside the top 40 and made his first major quarter-final at Roland-Garros before reaching the last eight at the other three grand slams in 2022, then the Wimbledon semi-finals last year.


Sinner’s Australian Open victory is the culmination of a career-best 2023 season, where he won his maiden Masters 1000 title in Toronto – over Australia’s Alex de Minaur – then ended the year on a 20-2 run, including titles in Beijing and Vienna, as well as reaching the final of the ATP Finals.


He also led Italy to its first Davis Cup title since 1976 over Australia and de Minaur, after beating world No.1 Novak Djokovic for the second time in 12 days in the semi-finals. Sinner repeated the dose in the Australian Open to make the final.

He said representing his country and becoming the first Italian to win an Australian Open was “maybe the most important” part of his success.

“Being able to make them happy today [is a great feeling] because I feel like they push me also, that I can believe in myself and then having so much support – it’s amazing,” Sinner said.

“It’s like the crowd … when the stadium is packed, 15,000 people, they are cheering for you or for your opponent. It’s an amazing feeling just to go on court, then obviously when you’re in a tough situation, you want to make a good match also.


“Like today, I was going so fast, I was two-sets-to-love down, but all the people who came there to watch; I was like, ‘I have to at least try to make it a match somehow’, and that was today’s case.”

Cahill, who also coached Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep to grand slam titles, has been a part of Team Sinner since Wimbledon two years ago, mere months after Simone Vagnozzi began coaching the rising star.

“We believe in Jannik – we always have. He’s a special young kid, even the way he hits the ball, it just sounds special,” Cahill said.

“When you hit the ball the way he does, when you want to improve the way he does, when you move the way he does, he’s going to have success at some point.

“I think this sport has a few superstars. I think Carlos [Alcaraz] is very similar to Jannik in both the way they play, with the excitement level they bring to the game, and their personalities and their likeability … they both light it up when they play each other. I don’t think any of their matches have ever been boring.”

Sinner was already a big name in Italy before his slam breakthrough, with some of the world’s biggest brands already associating themselves with him, from Nike to Gucci, Rolex, Alfa Romeo, Lavazza and Head.

But he said he was ready for whatever came next, including potentially even higher expectations and more attention.

“I feel it’s part of the game, no? I’m extremely happy that I am in this position now,” Sinner said.

“I have a great team behind me … Darren has a lot of experience. He has been through this already a number of times. Simone, we were talking already after the match that we can improve still. It’s all part of the process.

“Obviously, having this trophy, it’s an amazing feeling. I feel grateful to have this here, but I know that I have to work even harder because the opponents will find a way to beat me, and I have to be prepared.”

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Marc McGowan is a sports reporter for The AgeConnect via Twitter.


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