Jannik Sinner slips into beast mode, ousts Berrettini

Jannik Sinner in action in Wimbledon 2024
Jannik Sinner in action in Wimbledon 2024 (PC: Wimbledon)

Tennis players are supposed to be well-mannered, on and off the court. No, not when they are fighting to save their lives in a Grand Slam. At the Centre Court in SW 19, the most famous suburb during the Wimbledon fortnight in London, two Italians, Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini were involved in one of the most brutal slugfests, with the roof rolled over.

Everyone was sweating, those playing, those watching, live, as well as on television. Had it been a heavyweight boxing slugfest, fans would have loved the aggression. No, this was aggression of a different type, where the tennis racquets were pounding the ball so hard, two friends, off court, produced tennis which was engrossing.

For those who feel tennis needs to be more gentle since the competitors at The Championships are classified under the section “gentleman ‘s singles,” there was nothing soft or kind in this match. This was raw, this was pulsating and this was a test of bashing of a different kind, where nuances in tennis had acquired a new meaning. Sonic boom serves versus return of serves which were sizzling, court coverage on grass which would have even left classical dancers applauding and producing geometry in the shot production, every ingredient was there in this three hour and 42-minute thriller.

In the end, to say this was a nightmare for Berrettini would not be an exaggeration as the match ended at 1032 PM, London time. Had it been the good old days of tennis on grass at Wimbledon, just outdoor, this match would have been stopped long ago. The retractable roof has made things so different now, players have to compete more fiercely. The end result, two tennis masters, one now on top and another past prime, produced a display which was high energy.

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Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon 2024
Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon 2024 (PC: X)

This generation knows, Jannik Sinner is the numero uno but then Berrettini is no bunny. As a former finalist in 2019 at Wimbledon, for Berrettini to lose in four sets — 6-7 (2/7), 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-7 (5/7) – was no shame. His serve was booming, just that the man across the net was gifted, producing returns which sizzled, hissed and kissed the lines.

At 28, Berrettini is not in the best shape, physically, as he has battled injuries around the ankle region and abductor. That is why his ranking has slipped to 59 now. However, Wimbledon has seen players who are no longer the favourite come out smoking. This was a slugfest which was not easy to watch if you were faint-hearted. Come on, three tie-breaks, this was tennis of highest intensity where the margin for error was so low. Indeed, if young tennis players learning the tricks of the trade wanted to watch what is it to serve and then execute the return, two Italians were treating them to a treatise.

After the final point following a mishit by his rival, Sinner raised his arm like a pugilist who had emerged victorious. The Centre Court, where spectators are supposed to also behave well, applauded Berrettini. Sinner, too, praised his Italian mate. This was not so much a tennis court, this was a Colosseum for the tennis it produced.

Sinner was lavish in praise when he said playing an Italian was not easy. “We are very good friends. It was very tough we had to face in a second-round match in such an important tournament. Yes, today was a high-level match, in three tie breaks I sometimes got a bit lucky,” said Sinner. For those who felt Jannik Sinner is good only on hard courts, which saw him win the Australian Open this January, he has shown skills on grass as well. After all, the few sorties to the net towards the climax were defining.

Carlos Alcaraz in Wimbledon 2024
Carlos Alcaraz in Wimbledon 2024 (PC: Wimbledon)

Mercifully, Carlos Alcaraz, the defending champion did not have to fight too hard as he dismantled Aleksandar Vukic 7-6, (7/5), 6-2, 6-2 on Court 1. The first set was tricky in many ways, but King Carlos, who wears the crown, settled well. Their last meeting in 2020 saw Alcaraz lose. But then, so much has changed in the last few years for Alcaraz the superstar. He next faces Frances Tiafoe. “The first set was key. After that, I played to a high level,” said Alcaraz later.

In the distaff side, Naomi Osaka was no match for rising American star Emma Navarro. For Osaka, who is hoping to make an impact after the maternity break, the defeat was swift, losing 4-6, 1-6 in less than an hour.

Women’s tennis has many news faces who are ready to play bold and beautiful tennis. As the 19th seed at Wimbledon, Emma was dominant throughout the match, her range and fluency catching the eye.

“Honestly, I feel like even though in the beginning it was kind of like we were trading games, I don’t know why, I didn’t feel fully confident,” said Osaka later. She will continue to work hard and will hope the challenge at the Paris Olympics will be different.

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