The player outside the 2019 ATP top 30 with the best chance to make it into next year’s top 30 is Jannik Sinner.
The young Italian is ranked 78, turned 18 this year and astonishingly only decided to pursue tennis seriously at 13 after being an elite skier from the age of eight.
Sinner won four ATP Challenger tournaments in 2019. He also beat world number 13 Gael Monfils and reached a semi-final against Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp, before taking out the Next Gen ATP finals as a wildcard. In this Next Gen tournament in Milan, he beat an experienced tour player Frances Tiafoe on the way and a battle-hardened Alex de Minaur – ranked 18 – comfortably in the final. Incredibly, he started 2019 ranked in the mid-500s.
Four words encapsulate why he is the next big thing: power, ruthless, composed, quality.
In terms of power, Sinner exudes natural authority with both the forehand and backhand and his backhand line shot is superb. His young body is also already producing serves consistently over 200 kilometres per hour.
The Italian also owns a ruthless attacking game, and his strike is brutal on any ball that is the least bit short of length from his opponent. He is ruthless in that he won’t let his opponent get away with any such nonsense. Do that, and he will finish the point. His coach Riccardo Piatti has said in interviews that they want to take control of the point, not wait.
He is mentally highly focused and composed. Sinner says his best quality is staying calm. If you have seen him play, you won’t be able to argue with this.
He has quality strokes and is a quality person. He hits effortless rockets when given the opportunity, and he is a skinny teenager who can make it look ridiculously easy. He shows that great technique is better than brute force. He executes winners like a baby-faced assassin and the reaction to a winner is often a clenched fist and a simple nod to his box, no fanfare, and he’s ready to strike again.
I like his aggressive game and the way he tees off in the most smooth-looking way when he decides to hit a winner. I admire his demeanour on the court, as well as his humbleness and attitude off the court. Sinner does have a bit of flair as well, which I find captivating, and he can throw in an unorthodox winning shot. He is perhaps not as elegant as Roger Federer, but he is no less effective in stranding an opponent. He seems like a very pleasant, down-to-earth and hard-working kid.
While Sinner does have some exceptional qualities that can help him reach the top of tennis, there are, of course, many aspects of his game where he can improve. These areas should be considered opportunities to develop more than weaknesses since he is barely 18 and has only been full-on with tennis for five years.
His forehand cross-court rally shot can bleed errors, and his inside variations on the forehand also need improving. Drop shots and his touch on both sides have lots of room for advancement. Another clear focus is to get more training into his body. He may be building on an ideal base, though, for his current 188-centimetre frame having come from skiing.
Jannik Sinner is still very young. He’ll have ups and downs. But mark down his name as one to watch in 2020 and beyond. If you can, get out and see him on an outside court, because it won’t be long before he only ever plays on the big stages.