Jannik Sinner advanced to the US Open quarter-finals Monday night but will be looking to retool his game before continuing his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title.
The 21-year-old Italian had a difficult night on serve in a rollercoaster five-set win over Ilya Ivashka, throwing in 14 double faults and putting just 46 per cent of first serves into play. Seven double faults alone in the second set (among 22 unforced errors) unexpectedly cost Sinner the set when he appeared to be cruising to a routine victory leading by a set and 4-2.
Ultimately the former Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion had to rally from 1-3 in the fifth set to close out the win 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and become the youngest player since Novak Djokovic (20, in 2007-08) to complete a set of quarter-final appearances at all four Grand Slams.
But if Sinner is to reach his first major semi-final, he will need to sharpen his game ahead of a meeting with third seed Carlos Alcaraz or 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.
“Today I was struggling, I was not playing my best,” Sinner said. “But in the fifth set I tried to dig deep and I’m very happy to be in the next round.”
Monday night’s stumble was a puzzling performance by the six-time Tour titlist, who in his first three matches served 44 aces to just 13 double faults.
Sinner is 14th in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin, and like countryman Matteo Berrettini (13th), is in need of a big run at Flushing Meadows to work into contention to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, where last year he played two matches in front of home fans as an alternate. Sinner and Berrettini are the highest-positioned players outside the current Turin cut who are still alive in the tournament.
It is the first time in tournament history (since 1881) that two Italian men have reached the quarter-finals in the same year. Sinner and Berrettini also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals together in January.
Sinner dominated Ivashka early, converting all three break points in the first set and absorbing Ivashka’s pace with rock-solid defence as he claimed five of Ivashka’s first six service games. Ivashka’s forehand power troubled Sinner as the match progressed, and coupled with 55 unforced errors from the Italian, almost proved the undoing of the 11th seed.