Jannik Sinner picked up his second win over Carlos Alcaraz in July to take the lead in the head-to-head between the two ATP NextGen stars.
The third full ATP Tour meeting between the two at Umag promised plenty of excitement and delivered more quality than we expected.
Going into the match, Alcaraz were favorites despite losing to Sinner at Wimbledon earlier in July in another match that could be called an instant classic.
Alcaraz has been the star of 2022, eclipsing what has also been a more than solid effort from the 20-year-old Italian.
Sinner’s triumph in the Umag final was his 35th victory on the ATP Tour in 2022, but earned him his first title of the year.
He started the year undefeated in the ATP Cup and performed well in big events without breaking through with a big win.
Such has been the form of young Alcaraz that pundits fear he will have little competition in the years to come when the power of the big three finally recedes.
Alcaraz’s attempt to defend their Umag title would end in frustration as Sinner used his long levers to push the Spaniard from pillar to post.
As a Spanish player, Alcaraz will have to endure the endless comparisons with Rafael Nadal, which is unfair on many levels but which he must face if he is to fulfill his potential.
Alcaraz wowed fans and critics alike with its rapid maturation and seemingly limitless energy and drive.
He’s at his best when executing the basics with one-inch accuracy and has benefited immensely from his matchups with all-time greats.
Alcaraz learned from their opponents on the fly, turning the tide against Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Which brings us back to Sinner who has now been able to put away Alcaraz twice in a month.
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Sinner’s play seems like a natural counter to Alcaraz’s hustle and bustle, which makes this budding rivalry all the more interesting.
The next encounter between the two will be something to look forward to as Alcaraz will no doubt learn from the loss in Croatia.
Sinner is not burdened by the expectations of his predecessors as an Italian player, but he is part of a very promising generation and he can harbor the ambition to beat his compatriots to a Grand Slam title.
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He will no doubt benefit from ATP Tour President Andrea Gaudenzi’s transparent desire to elevate Italian tennis.
Clay should have favored Alcaraz, who owns a Challenger Series win over Sinner on the surface, but he didn’t allow him to enter the contest.
Sinner had struggled against the top ten before, but against Alcaraz he stamped his authority on the game behind his almost flawless serve.
He recognized the need to keep Alcaraz moving which made for an entertaining game and left us wanting more.
It would not be a shame if we were entitled to another meeting between these two players at the US Open.