Watch: Jannik Sinner produces outrageous shot in win that underlines his Wimbledon title credentials (2024)

There was some grumbling on the shuttle bus to the All England Club as fans with Centre Court tickets realised newly minted world No 1 Jannik Sinner was playing on Court No 1. Given his dominance in the opening two sets against American 21-year-old Ben Shelton in his 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) straight-sets win, one can understand the longing to watch the Italian in person.

To be fair to Shelton who struggled with returns in the opening two sets, he pushed as much as he could for a fourth set.

There was something of an Italian takeover of Court No 1 with Jasmine Paolini ultimately reaching the quarter-finals in a walkover against another American Madison Keys. However, the game had gone to three sets and Paolini had her many compatriots in raptures.

The Italian tennis renaissance at SW19 began in 2019 with Matteo Berrettini reaching the final. Sinner beat the Roman in the second round here and interestingly, the last two times someone has knocked out Berrettini they have gone on to win Wimbledon. Forgetting absence through injury two years ago, Novak Djokovic beat him in the 2021 final and last year Carlos Alcaraz knocked him out en route to becoming champion. With Sinner doing the honours this year, could it be his year?

From this performance the omens are strong that the 22-year-old could make this his second major having won the Australian Open in January.

Shelton, a big serving left-hander, has a relaxed demeanour and as he grew into the match forced errors from Sinner, particularly around the net. He also broke Sinner’s serve early in that third set to begin his true resistance.

Shelton pushed it to a tie-break but some of Sinner’s play was outrageous – including playing a shot between his legs. Shelton kept fighting in the tie-break, and Wimbledon being Wimbledon, where crowds can quickly fall in love with an underdog, the earlier reverence for Sinner’s efficiency turned to raucous cheers for the American to take it to a fourth set. Shelton pushed it to 9-11 and his consolation was a standing ovation from the stands.

Shelton also has excellent tennis pedigree, with father and coach Bryan having reached the same stage at the Championships 30 years ago. In singles it was Shelton senior’s best result at a major when, as a qualifier, he stunned No 2 seed and 1991 Wimbledon champion Michael Stich in round one. He would fall in the final 16 to Christian Bergstrom.

What makes Sinner so appealing to the tennis aficionados is his variety of shots, ruthlessness for one so young and his laser focus. World No 76 Shelton had a distinguished collegiate career, winning the US National Championships for the University of Florida, and he tried to rattle Sinner with an early challenge in the first set when they were drawn at a game apiece. But it did not distract the rangy Italian, who grew up in a predominantly German-speaking pocket of South Tyrol in Northern Italy.

That was the rhythm of the game. Shelton would dig deep and was fierce in rallies, only for Sinner to outfox the young American again. The Italian marches on but another young player has laid a marker.

Later on Court No 1, Daniil Medvedev progressed to the quarter-finals after Grigor Dimitrov retired with an injury sustained after slipping.

Sinner shot shows force of personality

By Kate Rowan

There is something of a cult of Jannik Sinner growing amongst tennis aficionados. His victory over Ben Shelton showed the duality of his character – efficient, almost studious but then there is a quirkiness. His stunning trick shot between the legs may go down in SW19 lore.

“I’m not the kind of player to have a lot of trick shots, he said. “But, in this case, it was still the easiest shot. I didn’t have space to go right and left. It was a lucky shot.”

Many of Sinner’s disciples today sported curly orange wigs – ‘carrot’ costumes in homage of the Italian, in reference to his long, slender frame and shock of copper hair. He takes it all with good humour and regularly poses with the posses of fans. It was due to this build he abandoned competitive alpine skiing aged 13 to focus on tennis.

When the 22-year-old said last week he had “no idea” who Taylor Swift is – probably the most famous woman in the world – one could take him as hyper-focused and not particularly well-rounded. To be where he is you probably wouldn’t be spending your spare time frantically trying to work out the meaning of Swift’s lyrics.

Yet Sinner is far from hiding away from the stars as he appeared in a Gucci ad with one of the most famous men in the world in actor Ryan Gosling and Mexican actress Salma Hayek (who was at the All England Club to see his round of 16 win).

Sinner may not be a Swiftie but he is a dedicated follower of fashion with a particular penchant for cardigans and shows an innate style. He was also classy in his praise of Shelton “as one of the best serves of tour”.

It is a pretty astonishing statistic that 21-year-old Shelton scored 15 aces in straight sets against Sinner. Granted Sinner managed seven of his own. That obviously takes a certain sort of mentality – the mentality of the world No 1.

Sinner is hitting that sweet spot between hyper-focused brilliance and not worrying about showing who he is. So it is no wonder he is fast becoming a Wimbledon favourite, both on and off the court.

Watch: Jannik Sinner produces outrageous shot in win that underlines his Wimbledon title credentials (2024)
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