Tennis next gen is here to stay: Jannik Sinner’s breakthrough in Australia a prime example

Jannik Sinner demonstrated true grit by coming back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev for his maiden grand slam, the 2024 Australian Open at age 22, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

2024 Australian Open - Day 15
2024 Australian Open - Day 15 / James D. Morgan/GettyImages

For at least the last decade, tennis fans have been asking if anyone can beat the Big 3—Roger Federer (retired), Rafael Nadal and of course, Novak Djokovic—and the answer has emerged with powerhouses Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and now Jannik Sinner.

These three rivals have not only broken through the tennis glass ceiling of slams, but they’ve each achieved significant wins over the seemingly insurmountable Djokovic to do so: Alcaraz at Wimbledon last year, Medvedev at the 2021 U.S. Open, and now Sinner’s win over him on the way to the Melbourne final.

Tennis generational shift has arrived

These three players are the new guard, with Italy’s 22-year-old Sinner the latest heir apparent. Of the three, Sinner’s achieved the most recent wins over the grand slam king Djokovic, with successes at the Davis Cup and ATP Finals.

He also did something that only Federer and Djokovic have accomplished in a hard court major: the win over Medvedev was Sinner’s third successive victory over a T5 player. Additionally, the only set he lost throughout the tournament was at the hands of the world No. 1 Serbian in their tight third set semi.

What made Sinner’s achievement in Melbourne even more remarkable was the resolve he displayed in the eyes of defeat. Down two sets to Medvedev—in his sixth grand slam final, the more seasoned player—Medvedev looked like he was simply overpowering the Italian on the way to his second slam title.

“I like to dance in the pressure storm,” Sinner said, according to The Associated Press. “I like it, because that’s where most of the time I bring out my best tennis.”

Instead of wilting, Sinner managed to retool and turn the tables on his Russian opponent, pushing through the third set with renewed momentum. A confident Sinner proceeded to secure the fourth set to force a fifth decider. But by that time, Medvedev was calling for a trainer again to look at his leg and the Italian had the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in his sights.

"I’m so proud. I don’t know what’s going on really,” Sinner told Eurosport afterwards, via CNN. “It was a tough match. He started off really well, he moved me around the court, I couldn’t make my gameplan work...But then somehow in the third set, I was looking for the small chances which I used and then at some point, the match changed and I’m really happy how I reacted. Now there are so many emotions, I think I have to sit down and process it but obviously an unbelievable feeling.

At 5-3 in the final set, Sinner’s defense skills and championship mindset pulled him through, hitting a precise forehand that sailed past Medvedev and magically found the line. The Italian dropped to the ground in celebration with relief and joy.

A historic Italian win at the Australian Open

With the triumph on Sunday, Sinner becomes the first Italian to achieve an Australian Grand Slam. He is also the third Italian man—and fifth Italian player, male or female—to become a grand slam champion. The others include Nicola Pietrangeli, Adriano Panatta and Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros; while Flavia Pennetta’s 2015 U.S. Open makes her the only other hard court slam winner alongside Sinner.

None of this was lost on his rabid fan base, called the carota boys (Italian of course), who lost no time in jubilant celebration.

With a win at 22, Sinner is around the age that Federer achieved his first slam title, the 2003 Wimbledon trophy at 21 and 333 days. He’s also the youngest to win in Australia since Djokovic clinched his first Aussie title against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008.

“I still have to process it, because ... beating Novak in the semis and then today Daniil in the final, they are tough players to beat,” Sinner said. “It’s a great moment for me and my team. But in the other way, we also know that we have to improve if we want to have another chance to hold a big trophy again.”

Medvedev’s future

For Medvedev, questions will linger about his resolve in finals. This is the second Australian Open in a row where he’s lost after sailing to a two sets lead, notably against Nadal in 2022. He had also lost the previous year to Djokovic in three sets. Medvedev’s the first in the Open Era to lose two GS finals after leading by two sets.

However, to be fair, among the next gen players, Medvedev has probably had the toughest road to navigate: he’s faced off against either Djokovic or Nadal in all his previous tries at a GS title. The fact that he managed to get one off of them during the pinnacle of their prowess is rather remarkable. I feel strongly that he will add at least a second slam trophy to his cabinet.

As for Djokovic, he is sure to be a foil for this generation, but perhaps his days of complete dominance are over. He is still the reigning champion for two of the slams (French and the U.S. Open), made the final at last year’s Wimbledon and the semis here in Australia. The summer Olympics are also coming up, where he is gunning to do better than his 2008 Bronze medal from the Beijing Games.

The next tennis grand slam is the French Open, set to begin May 22.