Jannik Sinner is only 18, but the young tennis star has already drawn comparisons with none other than Roger Federer.
Now, the Italian teenager is endorsed by the same luxury watch brand as Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam winner from Switzerland.
“Very honoured and humbled to join such a prestigious brand as a global ambassador @rolex,” Sinner wrote on Instagram on Tuesday.
Sinner’s rise up the rankings of the men’s ATP Tour has been nothing short of meteoric.
Unranked two years ago, he finished 2019, his first full season on the men’s tennis tour, as the world No. 78 after winning three titles on the lower-tier Challenger Tour and taking the Next Gen Finals in Milan in November for rising young stars under the age of 21.
Sinner, the only 18-year-old inside the Top 100, only dedicated himself fully to tennis five years ago, he said in a phone interview from Melbourne last month.
Having grown up in Sexten, a winter sport resort in the German-speaking part of northern Italy, Sinner’s main passion growing up had been skiing. He was one of Italy’s top junior skiers between the ages of 8 and 12.
“I was skiing, because where I am from, the first sport is skiing, or wintersports,” Sinner said. “Then my dad came to me, gave me a racket, and I was like 2-and-a-half years old. I played a little bit, but not so much. I just played a little bit to enjoy everything.”
“When I was 7 or 8, I was not playing for one whole year because I was focusing on just skiing,” Sinner said. “Then, my dad gave me the racket once more, and I enjoyed it once more playing tennis. Then when I was like 13-and-a-half, I decided to go to Ricardo [Piatti].”
Although Sinner said it wasn’t easy leaving his parents and brother to go and live at the academy of the veteran Italian coach, the Piatti Tennis Centre, in Bordighera, on Italy’s Ligurian coast, it turned out to be a crucially important step for his tennis career.
Of course, tennis has seen its fair share of promising young stars, with only a few able to deliver on their early promise. The last teenage man to win a Grand Slam singles title was Rafael Nadal of Spain at the 2005 French Open.
But Sinner is the real deal, former champions say.
His fluid movement around the court, mixed with an attacking game style built around a big serve, has already drawn praise from some of the game’s biggest names.
Speaking on an ESPN conference call last month, both John McEnroe and Chris Evert predicted a bright future for the young Italian.
McEnroe, a seven-time major singles winner, said Sinner was “one of the most talented kids I’ve seen in 10 years” with the potential to win “numerous Grand Slams.”
Evert, an 18-time major singles winner who runs her own tennis academy, was impressed with Sinner’s composure at such a young age.
“The maturity that he has, has really propelled him at this point, and he plays like he belongs on the big stage,” Evert said. “He doesn’t have any fear…I love the demeanor that he has on the court, aside from his game. And I saw that with Roger Federer and [Rafael] Nadal, too, at a young age, with the current champions, and I see a familiarity there.”
Sinner’s talent has also been noted by both Nadal and Federer, who have won a combined 39 major singles titles.
“I practised with him the other day, he has a good character on court, he’s positive,” Nadal told reporters during last month’s Australian Open. “He has everything to achieve a great tennis career. The only thing that he needs to do, in my opinion, is have the right people around and work.”
Federer, who practised with Sinner in the runup to the Australian Open, said in Melbourne: “I think we’ll see so much more from him. He’s an exciting guy and super-sweet kid, which I always love to see.”
Altough Sinner said he appreciates all the praise he is getting, he is keeping a cool head.
“I think it’s been for sure a good year, and I won one more than I lost, which is not easy in our sport,” Sinner said. “But at the end, I won the Next Gen Finals, but I didn’t win nothing until now. I have to continue to work hard.”
This season, Sinner won his first ever Grand Slam main draw match at the Australian Open. Earlier this month, he beat the tenth-ranked Belgian David Goffin in Rotterdam before losing in three close sets to the 30th-ranked Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals.
Look out for him at hardcourt events in Indian Wells, California and Miami next month.