This time last year, Jannik Sinner, then No. 778 in the ATP Rankings, was preparing to play a Futures tournament in Tunisia. What a difference a year can make.
The 18-year-old #NextGenATP star earned the biggest victory of his career Thursday, defeating top seed and 2018 finalist Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last eight of the European Open for his first ATP Tour quarter-final.
“I played a very solid game. He didn’t play his best tennis for sure. It’s not easy if you make the final the year before and then to come here to play a young player and wild card,” Sinner said. “I think I played solid today. I served good on the important points and I think that was the key today.”
Currently at a career-high World No. 119, Sinner has made good use of the wild card he received in Antwerp. The Italian saved the only break point he faced against Monfils, who at World No. 13 is the highest-ranked player Sinner has beaten.
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Sinner, who has earned all five of his tour-level wins in 2019, had never previously defeated a Top 50 opponent, with his biggest victory before this coming against World No. 59 Steve Johnson at this year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia. In Rome, he lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and at the US Open, he pushed Stan Wawrinka to four sets. Sinner showed plenty of maturity against the veteran Frenchman, breaking Monfils’ serve four times in his 61-minute triumph.
“The match against Tsitsipas helped me to play against Wawrinka. It was a very big court against a three-time Grand Slam champion. I played very good there. Of course that helped me,” Sinner said. “I’m trying to make experience, especially this year. I’m trying to play good or better next year.”
Sinner misfired on a return on his first match point. But if he had any nerves, he did not show them, forcing an error off Monfils’ backhand slice to finish off his win. The Italian tried to contain his emotions, barely cracking a smile. After shaking hands with a congratulatory Monfils, though, Sinner let his joy show with a wide smile.
This was a crucial week for Monfils, who is trying to make a push for Nitto ATP Finals qualification. The Frenchman is in 13th place in the ATP Race To London with 2,170 points.
The teen will next face 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Frances Tiafoe, who ousted seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes. The American is currently placed fifth in the ATP Race To Milan, as he tries to return to the 21-and-under season finale for the second straight year.
“I’m feeling really good. I definitely needed this one. The last couple weeks haven’t been great for me, even the last couple months. To win two good matches, back-to-back, is very good,” Tiafoe told ATPTour.com.