No Rome for Sinner, how does he shape up for Roland Garros?

by Faizan Chaudhrey
sinner tennis

2024 has been a breakthrough year for Jannik Sinner. The Italian picked up his maiden grand slam at the Australian Open and went on an incredible hot streak until the clay court swing. He has only lost 2 matches this year (he has a 28-2 W/L record) to Alcaraz (Indian Wells) and Tsitsipas (Monte Carlo) but is yet to pick up a title on clay this year.

A hip injury forced him to withdraw from Madrid midway through the tournament. The same injury stopped him from playing his home tournament in Rome. Whether the hip will be right remains to be seen but if he is fully fit, he will be in the list of favourites for Roland Garros. To win back-to-back grand slams as his first two grand slams would be an impressive feat but it is not impossible; especially given the question marks around several other contenders for the title.

Let’s dive into Sinner’s clay court season so far and analyse his prospects for the grand slam in Paris. 

Analysing Sinner’s Roland Garros preparation 

Jannik Sinner started his clay court season in the lavish setting of Monaco. Monte Carlo provided some much-needed preparation on a slow clay court. Sinner racked up impressive wins over Korda, (an in form) Struff and Rune but would eventually fall to eventual champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals.

The loss to Tsitsipas was clouded by an error by the court officials; Tsitsipas had served a double fault, but it was not called. It would have resulted in Sinner breaking Tsitsipas’ serve in a crucial point in the match, instead Tsitsipas won that point, held serve and went on to take the match. The automatic line calls on clay debate raised from the ashes of the result. Sinner was level-headed in the aftermath and mentioned that errors happen.

The Italian possesses a calm demeanour and brushed off the controversy. As the semi-final went to 3 sets and that call had a material impact, most of the tennis fans did not see it as a bad loss for Jannik. It has been his only loss on clay in 2024 so far (he has not won a title either!). 

The Mutua Madrid Open is the only other preparation Sinner has going into Roland Garros. Madrid is a clay court event yes, but the conditions are completely different to the French Open; the courts play faster due to the high altitude and low humidity. Unlike Monte Carlo and Rome where the conditions are slow and more akin to those in Paris.

Jannik picked up solid wins over Sonego, Kotov and Khachanov before withdrawing before his match with Auger Aliassime. The Italians hip started playing up during the matches in Spain and ultimately stopped him from having a fairytale homecoming in Rome. This no doubt has derailed his preparation for Roland Garros; Rome is the perfect event for final touches before Paris, not to mention Rome is Sinner’s favourite event.  

Sinner after the Australian Open title

Still on a high level

Despite a lack of titles so far this clay season; Sinner’s level has been high. He has not reached the same heights as his Australian Open win form; but that is not surprising given the elite level he was playing at. Jannik’s style is not necessarily the best suited to clay; he has a good all-round game but has a 68%-win record on the red stuff in comparison to 74% on hard court.

Whilst watching the Italian play on clay I noticed at times he was playing as if he was on hard court instead of clay. Hitting flat deep ground strokes and trying to out hit the opponent with pace. Sinner realised after the first few matches that he needed to hit with higher topspin to create angles to drag out his opponents; opening up space on court to hit into it. Patience is needed on clay given its generally slow high bouncing characteristics and Jannik will know he will need to adapt a slightly different style on clay to succeed.

One noticeable change in Sinner’s game from the beginning of the clay season has been his willingness to use the drop shot more, he has been honing the skill to add to his arsenal and it is a great tool to have in his locker; especially on clay where it is easier to defend. The more creative ways you have to win a point, the better! 

Jannik will go into Roland Garros more prepared than Alcaraz and arguably more prepared than veterans Djokovic and Nadal. That is not to say he is the outright favourite for the French Open; he has only made the quarter finals in Paris (in 2020), but he will be looking to improve on that result this year. A lot will depend on how comfortable his hip feels and the draw he is given.

He is a top seed so should get a favourable draw to ease into Roland Garros. All eyes will be on Sinner and the rest of the field in what will be one of the most open Roland Garros’ in recent history!  

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