Carlos Alcaraz holds Wimbledon advantage over Jannik Sinner – can world No 1 turn things around?

Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon
Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon

Jannik Sinner is through to round three at Wimbledon, but things have been far from straightforward for the world No 1.

When the draw was first made, all eyes pondered to the top half, where the Italian was drawn on the same half as Carlos Alcaraz, the world No 3 and reigning champion at the All England Club.

And they were also drawn towards Sinner’s potential round two clash against Matteo Berrettini, a man the Australian Open champion knows well.

The Italians are Davis Cup teammates and share a close relationship, and Sinner would be more aware than anyone that Berrettini is no ordinary world No 59.

Three years ago, Berrettini reached the final at Wimbledon and has a strong grass-court history, winning multiple titles at Queen’s and Stuttgart – reaching the final at the latter again this year.

On paper, this was not going to be an easy match but it was one Sinner was widely expected to win, considering his dominant season – and his opponent’s injury struggles in recent years.

And Sinner did ultimately get over the line, winning 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(4) to reach round three.

“It was a tough match,” he said afterwards.

“We both played really well. He was serving very very well. Also me, especially the first two sets. Then I made a couple of mistakes at the start of the third set.

“His confidence started to grow more. Overall it was a good match from both sides. I’m happy to close it out in four – let’s see what’s coming in the next round.”

Berrettini’s efforts should be applauded, but there are certainly questions for Sinner to answer.

The top seed looked largely comfortable on serve across the first two sets – being broken just once in set two, breaking back immediately – but did not always look at his clinical best within rallies.

And when he did start to hit the ball more fluidly towards the end of the second set, he was unable to build on that; his opponent outhit and outmuscled him in a one-sided third set.

Sinner steadied the ship in the fourth to avoid a decider, but there is no doubt we are not seeing the form that took him to the top of the ATP Rankings and a maiden Slam in Australia.

That was also the case in his round-one match against Yannick Hanfmann, where he again wobbled badly in the third set before winning in four.

Contrast that to Alcaraz, and it is easy to see why the narrative has switched slightly in recent days.

The Spaniard has not been firing at full pelt either but has been more convincing than his main rival across his opening matches.

Alcaraz saw off qualifier Mark Lajal in his opener, before defeating Aleksander Vukic in round two.

Both matches followed a similar pattern; the defending champion was not at his best at the beginning, but rounded into form nicely at the end.

This was even more the case against Vukic, where he was taken to a first-set tiebreak, only to ease towards a 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2 victory.

The opponents he has faced are perhaps less challenging than those Sinner has come up against, but he has undoubtedly delivered better, stronger performers.

In a format where energy preservation is key, Alcaraz’s ability to avoid any unnecessary drama so far is notable, and how he raced through sets two and three against Vukic was striking.

In their French Open semi-final, he was off the boil across the first three sets against Sinner, before righting the ship and winning in five.

Grass makes this match-up different to how it would go on clay, but it is becoming difficult to bet against the same result right now.

Sinner was a slight favourite for the title, but the difference between his progression and Alcaraz’s – and the emphatic manner of Novak Djokovic’s opening match – have perhaps changed that perception.

A clash versus Miomir Kecmanovic should be kinder for the world No 1 than this Berrettini match – and will provide a huge indication as to whether he could potentially handle Alcaraz in the last four.

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