Italian tennis legends and media forced into rapid backtrack after brutal Jannik Sinner criticism
Roll the clock back to mid-September and Jannik Sinner was at the eye of a media storm in his Italian homeland for all the wrong reasons.
His decision to pull out of Italy’s Davis Cup squad for the Group Stage Finals in September was understandable given the number of matches he had played ahead of that week of national team duty, ye the decision was roundly comdened in Italy.
Sinner won the Toronto Masters in August and looked a little jaded in the final stages of his US Open last-16 clash against Alexander Zverev, with the German taking advantage to run out as a winner in an epic five-set battle.
This was Sinner’s breakthrough year on the ATP Tour as while we have been talking about his potential since his run to the Miami Open final in 2021, his presence this year has suggested he is ready to start winning the big titles.
Italy is a tennis-mad nation that gets very excited when a new hero emerges, so their media didn’t hold back when Sinner announced he was withdrawing from Davis Cup duty in a bid to recover ahead of the Asian swing of the ATP Tour.
Italian tennis legend Adriano Panatta, who was part of Italy’s Davis Cup-winning team in 1976, led the chorus of criticism coming Sinner’s way as he questioned his sense of national duty.
“Today, tennis players are businesses and, as such, they only think about profit, especially those around them, forgetting history and feelings,” the Italian said in an interview, as reported by We Love Tennis.
“He had already given up on the Olympic Games, today he says no to the Davis Cup. Jannik is tired? (Italian Moto GP rider Francesco) Bagnaia, three days after the accident, was already on the bike.”
READ MORE: WATCH: Italy’s Davis Cup celebrations as hero Jannik Sinner reserves special praise for one team member
Nicola Pietrangeli, record holder of the event with 164 appearances for Italy, was quoted giving his views on why players should always accept a call to play for Italy as he said: “Representing your country is the highest aspiration of an athlete, it is an honour.
“Anyone who refuses and then goes to play a tournament elsewhere should be disqualified. If you’re not proud to play for your country, get a fake medical certificate, it’s a matter of conscience. And no excuses or alibis should be found.”
The Italian media were also vocal in their criticism of Sinner, with Gazzetta dello Sport serving up a savage verdict on his move to step aside from playing for Italy.
“This is a totally personal decision, certainly not shared by most of his fans, made with a cool head as a consequence of the hard (to be digested) defeat in the round of 16 of the US Open against Zverev,” they wrote.
“Each player, let’s be clear, has the right to plan as he sees fit, but the national team shirt remains a symbol that deserves to be honoured with respect. And instead Sinner, in Davis Cup, has already rejected it four times.
“The blue shirt is never a hindrance, if anything a driving force of emotions and feelings, especially if you are the best player in your country. Think about it next time.”
Your #DavisCup world champions…
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) November 26, 2023
It was pretty damning stuff.
In fact, there were some who questioned how Sinner would be receieved when he made the most of his break at the US Open, produced great performances in Aisa and qualified for the ATP Finals in Turin.
How would the Italian audiences react to a player who had turned down the chance to play for his country and had received so much negative media attention?
The answer was they would create one of the greatest atmospheres ever witnessed at an Italian tennis event, as they cheered their man to the rafters in a week that saw him beat Novak Djokovic in the group stages and reach the final, where he lost to Djokovic.
Despite that draining experience in Turin, Sinner made himself available for Italy’s Davis Cup Finals squad in Malaga, with his win against Djokovic in the semi-finals one of the most remarkable of this tennis year as he saved three match points before beating the world No 1.
Sinner went on to win the decisive point for Italy in the Final against Australia and will now forever be etched into Italian tennis folklore as the hero who won Italy their first Davis Cup in 47 years.
“I think pressure is a privilege to have,” declared Sinner as he explained how he controlled his emotions in the heat of a Davis Cup battle.
“There are not so many players who have this privilege. Davis Cup pressure is different because you know that you have a big responsibility to show because you don’t have many chances.”
Sinner is now an eternal tennis hero for the Italian tennis community and those who wrote articles questioning his loyalty to his country just two months ago are backtracking at a rapid pace.
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