Newly crowned Australian Open champ Jannik Sinner declared he likes to “dance in the pressure storm”, well aware becoming a major champion means you become the hunted.
As he basked in the glory of his maiden grand slam victory, having not slept much, the 22-year-old Italian knows he has to “keep working” if he’s to climb the mountain again.
Eight years after leaving home as a 14-year-old, and 15,000 km away from his Italian hometown of Sesto, where locals gathered at an indoor tennis court to watch their hero’s quest for glory, Sinner achieved an Australian Open victory famous enough to draw praise from the premier of his country.
He was keen to thank his “team”, which includes Australian Darren Cahill, declaring celebrations with them were the “best feeling I’ve had”.
“I didn’t sleep much. It’s great emotions and I am slowly realising what I have done,” Sinner said on Monday morning, after becoming the first Italian man to win a grand slam since Adriano Panatta raised the French Open trophy in 1976.
“It’s one of the biggest trophies we have in our sport, so I’m really happy that I can share this with my team today, that was maybe the best feeling I’ve had.”
Asked if he could match Novak Djokovic and win 10 Australian Opens he said he the world No.1 was in a “different league”.
Sinner said his journey to the top had been “quite fast”, but the rapid rate of his improvement over the past 12 months, which includes winning his maiden Masters 1000 title, helping his country beat Australia to win the Davis Cup and then taking down Djokovic on the way to his maiden grand slam crown, was only going to intensify.
“I also know that I have to keep working for other occasions,” he said. .
“I feel grateful to have this here, but I know that I have to work even harder because the opponents, they will find the way to beat me and I have to be prepared.”
Sinner said his capacity to handle pressure would be keep to emulate his Melbourne Park success.
“There is always pressure, but the pressure is something good. You have to take it in a good way. It’s a privilege, no? Because there are not so many players who have this kind of pressure, but in the other way, when you have pressure, it’s always, OK,” he said.
“So yes, I like to dance in the pressure storm. I like it because that’s where most of the time I bring out my best tennis. I’m also quite relaxed in this occasion because I always try to enjoy on the court.”
Sinner’s victory was lauded by Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, who declared he “wrote a new page of history today that fills us with pride. It’s an achievement worthy of a real champion.”
Asked about his parents, who weren’t in Melbourne to see his triumph, Sinner conceded to not seeing them “very often” but lauded them as the “perfect parents” who never put pressure on him, instead giving him the freedom to pursue his dream.
“I went away from home when I was 14 years old, so I had to grow up quite fast, trying to cook for myself, trying to make laundry. You know, the first times it is different, but then in the other way, that was maybe the fastest way to grow up,” he said.
“I think for me it was tough, but for the parents to leave their son with 14 years old, it’s also not easy. They always gave me, they never put pressure on myself, which for me is maybe the key why I’m here today. I’m a very quite relaxed man who just enjoys to play tennis. I’m 22 years old, so I also enjoy to do normal stuff.
“And that’s it. They are the perfect parents. Obviously, I know only them (smiling) but they are awesome. And also my brother, he brings me honesty throughout the whole career I’m going through.”
Asked if he even knew at 14 that he had the talent to achieve great things, Sinner said it was hard to answer, but he knew there was something special going on when he hit the ball.
“It’s magic, you know,” he said.
“It’s tough to understand when someone says, ‘Look, you are special or you’re a good player’, because you know only yourself.
“I’m extremely happy that I am in this position now. Let’s see what’s coming in the future.”