There was nothing sinful in the way the Next Gen Finals ended, in fact for 18-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner it was quite heavenly. A year ago he was a spectator in Milan watching the action, now he is the champion, and for the second consecutive year Australian Alex de Minaur was left holding the runner-up trophy.
Sinner came into the tournament as a wild card and his 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 over the top seed left de Minaur a bit shell-shocked. He had swept through the round robin field without too many issues and he was heavily favoured to go all the way but the teenager from Sexten in Northern Italy, around the Tyrol region, who is an amazing skier, had other ideas.
“I don’t have words,” Sinner said of his second top 20 victory and the biggest title of his very young career. “He’s an unbelievable player. I just tried to play my game and not make any errors. I didn’t make many today, so I’m very happy with my performance.
“The week has been unbelievable. The crowd... You can hear them … I’m very happy. I wouldn't be here without the wild card, so thanks to everyone. I hope to be back here next year.
“I think I played better match after match. That’s the point and that's the thing we were looking for. I played well the first match. (In the semis) I started not perfect, but then it was a great match after. I started (the final) very well… I’m very happy about that.”
It has been a breakout season for Sinner. He is the youngest player in the top 100 at 95 having rocketed up 450 during 2019. He won two Challengers and just recently reached the semis in Antwerp where he defeated Gael Monfils.
De Minaur was naturally very disappointed with the result but also philosophical. He was trying to win his fourth title of the year from five finals, having also lost to Roger Federer in the Basel final a couple of weeks ago.
“He could not have played any better on the break points,” De Minaur said. “Maybe if I had gotten a couple of those break points early, it would have been a completely different match. It ended up being that he just played too good.”
“It’s been a great week. Jannik was too good. I’m happy with my year and looking forward to next year.”
Sinner’s big serve paid dividends as he saved nine break points and broke de Minaur once in every set; by comparison de Minaur had eight break points but his conversion percentage was only 38%. The match ended after 64 minutes when the Australian had a backhand error.
This was the third year of the innovative Next Gen Finals. In 2017 Hyeon Chung carried off the trophy and last year it was Stefanos Tsitsipas who this year qualified for the big one, the ATP Finals in London.