Rising star Jannik Sinner, 21, goes for breakthrough win vs. Medvedev in Miami Open final

·3 min read
Pedro Portal/pportal@miamiherald.com

Jannik Sinner could not deny the importance of his thrilling, three-set upset of Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals of the 2023 Miami Open on Friday. It was “for sure ... one of the best wins” of his career, he conceded, and set up the 21-year-old Italian to hit new heights in his career.

On Sunday, he’ll square off against Daniil Medvedev in the Miami Open championship with a chance to win his first ATP Tour Masters 1000 trophy and perhaps vault as high as No. 6 in the Association of Tennis Professionals’ Monday rankings.

“Jannik is progression really, really fast, especially this year,” Medvedev said Friday after beating No. 14-seed Karen Khachanov in the other Miami semifinal.

Sinner is currently up to No. 9 in the world and the No. 10 seed in the tournament. Medvedev is the No. 4 seed and could move up one spot to No. 4 in the world rankings with a win Sunday at 1 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium.

After he beat the No. 1 player in the world Friday in Miami Gardens, Sinner proved he’s capable of hanging with anyone. Medvedev provides a stiff challenge, though.

The 27-year-old Russian is now in the final of his fifth straight tournament and was riding a 19-match win streak until he fell to Alcaraz in the championship of the 2023 BNP Paribas Open last month in Indian Wells, California. It’s another chance for Sinner to solidify his place as one of the signature new stars in men’s tennis.

He has never beaten Medvedev, either. In only his second appearance in an ATP Masters 1000 final, Sinner has a chance to clear multiple hurdles.

“The final, I will enjoy because I need to change something,” Sinner said Friday. “I have to find the right way to win against Daniil. If it’s not this time, hopefully there are many other times.”

He has proved already to at least be a worthy foil to Alcaraz, which is important because the 19-year-old Spaniard appears to be the future of the sport. Sinner’s win in the semifinals was an absolute thriller, requiring a third-set comeback — after Alcaraz, the top seed, came from behind in each of the first two sets — and featuring perhaps the best point of the year with a 25-shot rally in the first set. They’ve now split six head-to-head meetings in their young careers, with Sinner proving he can at least match Alcaraz in terms of strength.

“I cannot hit a 110-mph forehand,” Medvedev said. “That is an advantage and Sinner is capable of doing that.”

Jannik Sinner knocks off Miami Open defending champ Carlos Alcaraz to reach the final

Medvedev, a veteran among this new generation of budding stars, presents a different sort of challenge.

Medvedev’s strengths lie as much in his mental gifts as his physical tools and his ability to make adjustments has tormented less experienced players, including Sinner.

In the Open quarterfinals Thursday, Medvedev was struggling with Christopher Eubanks, who was on a Cinderella run after getting out of the qualifying draw, until a rain delay gave him a chance to tweak the way he was returning Eubanks’ serves and he rolled over the 26-year-old American for a straight-sets win. In his last meeting with Sinner in February, Medvedev dropped the first set, then recovered to win in three.

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Sinner has lost all five of his meetings with Medvedev, but 3 of 5 have gone to a final set.

“For sure, it’s completely different than this match today,” Sinner said. “I need to make some changes, trying to mix up the game a little bit also, then we’ll see.

“I feel ready to compete, happy to be in the final, and let’s see how it goes.”