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‘Tennis is in great hands’ says Sinner’s coach Cahill

By AFP - Apr 03,2024 - Last updated at Apr 03,2024

Jannik Sinner of Italy poses with the Miami Open men’s trophy at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Florida (AFP photo)

MIAMI — Jannik Sinner’s third victory of the year, at the Miami Open on Sunday, will lift the Italian to number two in the world and has convinced his coach, Darren Cahill, that tennis is set for years of exciting battles at the top.

Roger Federer has retired, Rafael Nadal is battling with injuries and 36-year-old Novak Djokovic is entering the twilight of his career but Cahill, the Australian former coach of Andre Agassi, believes 22-year-old Sinner’s rivalry with Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz ensures a bright future for the sport.

“He’s getting to play a sport that he loves and do it at the highest order — and he’s loving every piece of his life at the moment. So he appreciates every single moment that is happening to him,” Cahill told reporters after Sinner’s straight sets win over Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the final at Hard Rock Stadium.

“But he has also got his feet on the ground, knowing it’s just a sport. It’s just a tennis match. And beyond this, whilst he’s professional in everything he does, he enjoys his life. He’s a normal 22-year-old kid.

“So there’s a lot to learn from him, a lot of good to learn from both him and Carlos. I think they’re very similar in many meaningful ways and that’s why I think tennis is in great hands at the moment with the likes of those two and many other players coming through that are going to carry the torch through a generation that we’ve been so fortunate to sit through the last 20 years.

“It is important to have these types of sports people coming through.”

Cahill, who coached Australian former world number one Lleyton Hewitt and worked with Andy Murray, says that while the future looks bright, it would be wrong to make comparisons between Sinner and Alcaraz and the previous generation.

But he believes the new wave of talent are benefitting from the methods used by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

“What they were able to achieve for so many years is remarkable and I don’t think we’ll ever see that domination again, no matter what,” said the Australian.

“It has been remarkable how they’ve pushed the frontier of the game and made everyone more professional and made everybody play better. What you’re seeing with the players coming through now is a direct result of their professionalism, of the teams they put together, the way they’ve tried to inch out every piece of improvement in each of their games.”


Sinner’s ‘playing a 10’ 


Cahill works alongside Sinner’s Italian coach, Simone Vagnozzi, as part of a large support team and those structures flow directly from the approaches taken by the “Big Three” of tennis.

“They’ve got big teams, they go from the physio to the mental coach, to a couple of tennis coaches now, to a fitness trainer,” Cahill said.

“But I wouldn’t start comparing what Carlos or Jannik or Holger [Rune] or these types of players are doing just yet to the generation prior. Because I think that’s unfair.

“They need time to establish themselves but the level is right up there and it’s a good level. But they need to win a lot more before you start comparing it to those boys.”

Cahill said there is no doubt that Sinner’s form — with three tournament wins in the opening three months of the season, starting with January’s Australian Open — is outstanding and he believes he will get even better.

“For where he is at the moment, right now, he’s playing a 10,” Cahill said. “You can’t sugarcoat it. He’s playing great and his level [in Miami] was fantastic. But he can get better.

“You evolve, you get a little bit older, a bit stronger, a bit faster, a bit smarter, all those things are going to start coming into his game. “We’ve been working on improving his serve, improving his transition game, his slice backhand to use it as a change-up shot, direction on his forehand and return of service.

“But credit where it’s due — he’s playing terrific tennis at the moment.”

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