Six times during his post-match press conference Monday evening after losing against Rafael Nadal in the fourth round at Roland Garros, Jannik Sinner repeated some iteration of “the way is very long”. The #NextGenATP Italian was saying it will take time to get to the top of the sport.
Despite falling in straight sets against the 13-time champion on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Sinner learned more about what it takes to get to the pinnacle.
“I think mentally [Rafa] is very strong,” Sinner said. “That’s what I’m trying to do, as well, stay strong. I’m trying to not give him any free space.
“Obviously when you play against top guys like Rafa, Roger, or Novak, it’s tough to play against them because they are very strong mentally, which I think we have seen today as well. Novak against Lorenzo, [Novak] came back from two sets to love.”
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Earlier in the day, fellow #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti won the first two sets against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in tie-breaks before the Serbian responded emphatically. Musetti won just one game the rest of the match.
Sinner was unable to win a set against Nadal the way his countryman did against the top seed. But he had an opportunity to serve for the first set before his advantage — and the momentum — slipped away.
“I was up, serving for the set in the first set, but it’s a long way to go to win against Rafa. Obviously very disappointed how it went today. But he played better than me,” Sinner admitted. “In the beginning he was playing well. Then at some point he was not pushing the ball that hard anymore, so I went up with the break. Then after he changed it once more. The way to [get] to that level is very long, still very, very long.”
The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion made sure to give credit to Nadal, who is now 104-2 at the clay-court major. The legendary lefty struck 31 winners and broke the Italian’s serve nine times.
“I think he played [at a] very high level today. He was [hitting] the ball very hard. That makes [it so] that you are not going to play the tennis you would like to,” Sinner said. “He was playing and I was only running at some points. The way is very long and I hope I can still have one more chance to play against him.”
Sinner has now made the second week at Roland Garros in his first two appearances. Last year, he reached the quarter-finals before losing against Nadal. Although those two impressive runs are good, the teen was more focused on what he considered a performance that was not his best.
“I was expecting more from my side,” Sinner said. “Today he played better than me. We can stay here one hour to talk about [that], but at the end of the day he played better than me. He deserved to win.”