It may have been a long time coming, but Jannik Sinner has an TBEN title in 2022.
The Italian triumphed in a #NextGenATP heavyweight championship match against Carlos Alcaraz with a 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1 win at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag on Sunday.
Sinner has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this season, having reached six Tour-level quarter-finals in 2022 ahead of this week’s ATP 250 gravel event in Umag. The second seed had to be at his best against Alcaraz, especially after the Spaniard had won a tight opening set in a tie-break. Still, the Italian began to dictate the baseline exchanges, saving nine of nine break points to take a two-hour, 26-minute win.
“Of course I’m very happy,” Sinner said after the game. “I have [had] a difficult year so far, I had a few unlucky moments, but we worked every time to play better, to be a better player, to be a better person. So I’m really happy to finally get a trophy this year, but I know I still have a lot of things to improve on… It’s all about the process.”
The win was Sinner’s second against Alcaraz in four weeks, after the Italian won four sets in the pair’s fourth round game at Wimbledon.
An essential hold on serve in the second game of the second set was crucial to Sinner’s victory. The Italian fended off six breakpoints to frustrate Alcaraz and immediately broke the Spaniard’s serve in the next game.
“That was a crucial point [of the match]’ said Sinner. “I knew I had to stay there. He made some unforced mistakes and I was very happy to win this race. After that I came back well and raised my level a little bit, and I think I found a solution then.”
The match was the third tour-level encounter in a burgeoning rivalry between two of the TBEN’s brightest young stars, and the opening set fit the bill as both players produced some clean punches and electric moves down the baseline. It was Alcaraz who made his move in the tie-break, leading 5/1 before converting his third set point after a stunning defensive forehand forced Sinner into a tricky half volley.
However, after Sinner resisted Alcaraz’s attack to keep his serve and score at 1-1 in the second set, the Italian took center stage. Sinner was a constant threat in return games and he broke Alcaraz’s serve five times in the second and third sets to take a 2-1 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.
For this final, Sinner’s six previous TBEN championships had been played on hard courts. His triumph in Umag is the sixth title in the world ranking 10, and the win against Alcaraz improved Sinner’s record against Spanish players in 2022 to 8-0.
It was Alcaraz’s second defeat in the championship in as many weeks after falling to Lorenzo Musetti last Sunday in Hamburg. Despite the disappointment of the defeat, the Spaniard’s build-up in Umag this week to a Tour-leading sixth final of the year will lift him above Stefanos Tsitsipas to a career-high No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings on Monday.