When defeating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is the toughest challenge in sports, defeating Novak Djokovic in Melbourne can’t be too far behind. He hadn’t lost there in about 3,000 days (a COVID exclusion played a role), he has won the tournament ten times, and was still shaking off a previous season where he won three of the four majors and lost the final of the other one.
But that’s exactly what Jannik Sinner did on Thursday night, beating Djokovic in four sets and defeating him in the first two sets. Djoker was notably nervous in those sets, lacked energy, and delivered many more shots into the net than anyone was used to. Perhaps his long first two matches and the bite demanded of him by Taylor Fritz at the age of 36 were too much. Maybe it was just a bad day.
This should not diminish Sinner, who solidly closed out the last season with two victories over Djokovic, albeit in three-set games. There is no cleaner striker than Sinner, and the sound his racket makes resembles the sound once made by Albert Pujols‘ bat: A menacing crack. His movements were equal to, and often better than, Djokovic’s, the best mover the game has ever seen. And his serve is an absolute cannon, placed so well in the game that Djokovic, the greatest returner of all time, never had a break point.
22-year-old Sinner seems to have combined all the tools with the belief and determination to join Carlos Alcaraz as those ready to take the torch whenever Djokovic is ready to pass it. He struck his first blow on Thursday in Australia.