Melbourne set for new champion as hot Sinner faces Medvedev

football28 January 2024 05:00| © Reuters
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Jannik Sinner © Getty Images

Jannik Sinner has sprinted past opponents at the Australian Open in his quest for a maiden Grand Slam but could end up running a marathon in the final against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday, when Melbourne Park will crown a new king.

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The winner of the title-decider at Rod Laver Arena will become the first new men's champion at the Australian Open since Stan Wawrinka won his only Melbourne Park title in 2014.

It will be the first final since 2005 not to feature at least one of the three players who have dominated men's tennis for two decades - Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal.

Sinner made sure of that by dismantling reigning champion Djokovic in the semi-finals to end the world number one's bid for a record 25th major.

It was the Italian's third victory in four matches against Djokovic since November, confirming a red-hot run of form that, Sinner says, has primed him for his first run to the business end of a major.

"After last year, especially the end of the year, it gave me confidence that I could potentially do some good results in the Grand Slams," said the 22-year-old, who has dropped only one set on his way to the final.

"But you still have to show it, no? There are people who talk a lot, but you have to show it."

Sinner's game has moved to another level since he began working with Darren Cahill, who believes the fourth seed has all the weapons to land one of the game's four big prizes.

"He's got the qualities I believe that a lot of the great champions in the game have, but you've got to start winning to let that come to fruition," the Australian coach said.

"So he's making little steps. He had a good finish to last year. He gained a lot of belief from what he was able to do."


Belief and a rich vein of form might, however, count for nothing against the incredible will power of Russian Medvedev, who has twice battled back from the brink of defeat to make his third Australian Open final.

While Sinner has spent a little more than 14 hours on court, his third-seeded opponent has battled for more than 20 thanks in large part to his five-set wins over Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round and Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.

On both occasions he rallied from two sets down and, although he said he may feel "destroyed" physically, Medvedev will be determined to finally raise the trophy after losing to Djokovic in 2021 and a five-set heartbreaker to Nadal in 2022.

"I'm stronger than I was before this tournament because now I know that I'm capable of some things maybe I thought I'm not. Because before I didn't do anything like this to get to the final," the 27-year-old said.

"It's better to be in the final winning three-set, four-set matches. That's the better way physically. But it is what it is. I'm proud and looking forward to the final to give 100% again."

Former U.S. Open champion Medvedev, who has now reached six Grand Slam finals, has defeated Sinner six times in nine meetings but, perhaps crucially, lost their last three clashes on hardcourts in 2023.

Medvedev's coach Gilles Cervara is convinced, however, the experience that the Russian has of playing major finals could be decisive.

"I would like (to think) that it makes a big difference," Cervara said.

"Of course, Jannik is playing amazing tennis. He proved it. Daniil played against him at the end of last year, and they were tough matches."