Sinner downs Djokovic twice, sets up Aussie final clash
Ian Chadband |
Novak Djokovic’s dream of capping his great season by blasting Serbia past Australia in the Davis Cup final has been dynamited by Jannik Sinner’s extraordinary double triumph over the world No.1.
Instead, in Sunday’s title showdown in Malaga, Lleyton Hewitt’s men will face an Italy team running hot on the heroics of their golden boy Sinner, who beat Djokovic in both the singles and the doubles in the space of five exhilarating hours in their semi-final on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
In one of the great Davis Cup rubbers, Djokovic held three match points against Sinner and was on the verge of a completing a relatively workaday 2-0 victory for the Serbs.
But for only the fourth time in his matchless career, Djokovic was beaten from match-point up as Sinner roared back to complete his second victory over the master in just 12 days, winning 6-2 2-6 7-5.
The 22-year-old Sinner, by now an irresistible force, then re-emerged to team up with Lorenzo Sonego and spray massive forehand winners around as they outplayed a by now weary-looking Djokovic and Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3 6-4.
It was a crushing end to Djokovic’s hopes of ending his triumphant season, which has featured three grand slam victories and an ATP Finals showdown victory over Sinner just six days ago, with a second Davis Cup title.
“For me personally, it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously, having three match points, being so close to win it,” said Djokovic.
“Yeah, it’s unfortunate really. This is sport. When you lose for your country, you know, the bitter feeling is even greater.”
After telling GB fans to “shut up” earlier in the week, Djokovic again got irritated with the crowd in the doubles, pretending to be the conductor to the Italian fans’ deafening chorus, but though he may be the greatest player who ever picked up a racquet, doubles still looks an alien game to him.
His serve was broken in the first set and his court positioning left a big hole for Sinner to blast his forehand through the world No.1 and Kecmanovic, who had earlier worn down Lorenzo Musetti 6-7 (7-9) 6-2 6-1 in the tie’s opening singles.
The tie, though, will forever be remembered for world No.4 Sinner’s comeback triumph in their third brilliant singles duel in less than a fortnight.
This time, the young titan reprised his victory of 12 days ago in the ATP Finals group stages when he became the only man since Djokovic’s Wimbledon final loss to Carlos Alcaraz to defeat the 24-time grand slam champion.
Here he did something even more astonishing when, after soaking up immense pressure throughout the deciding set, he stared at 0-40 on his serve at 4-5.
Yet the 22-year-old proved absolutely nerveless, firing down an ace to save the third of the three match points, and then immediately turning the tables by breaking Djokovic in the very next game amid wild Italian celebrations in the stands at the Palacio de deportes Martin Carpena.
Sinner then served it out to end Djokovic’s cherished unbeaten 21-singles winning streak in the Davis Cup.
Sinner was again magnificent in the doubles with Djokovic noting he hardly missed a ball and he was still looking ominously fresh after more than four hours on court.
The beneficiaries of all the drama? The Australians, who were happily enjoying a day’s rest at their team hotel further down the Costa del Sol, watching the drama unfold on TV.
While the Italy tie didn’t finish until 8.15pm after a noon start, Alex de Minaur and co should be fresh for combat in Sunday afternoon’s (Monday AEDT) final as they seek to lift the Davis Cup for the first time in 20 years.AAP