Jannik Sinner: Beating the 'Big Three' is a mental challenge

The 19-year-old Jannik Sinner, seeded 18th in Paris, said that beating one of the Big Three - Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer - was a mental challenge.

Jannik Sinner (R) congratulates Rafael Nadal after their 2021 French Open round-of-16 encounter in Paris.   -  Getty Images

Jannik Sinner has been hailed as the future of the sport, but the Italian teenager was handed another masterclass by the old guard in the form of a 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 defeat by Rafael Nadal during the fourth round of the French Open on Monday.

The 19-year-old Sinner, seeded 18th in Paris, said that beating one of the 'Big Three' -- Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer -- was a mental challenge.

Sinner led Nadal 5-3 in the opening set but just when it looked like he could be the first player in two years to take a set off the 13-time French Open champion at Roland Garros, the door slammed shut and Nadal went 7-5, 4-0 up. According to Sinner, winning the opening set wouldn't have meant much anyway.

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"Maybe, I would have won the first set, but you still have to win two more sets, so the way is long. I think mentally he's very strong. That's what I'm trying to do, as well, staying strong. I'm trying to not give him any free space," he said.

"Obviously, when you play against top guys like him, Rafa, Roger, or Novak, it's tough to play against them because they are very strong mentally, which I think we have seen today as well. Novak against Lorenzo Musetti, coming back from two sets to love," he added, referring to fellow teenager and compatriot Musetti's collapse after winning the first two sets against world number one Djokovic.

Now, it's back to the drawing board for Sinner. "I'm excited to play against him, because it's a huge test. On the other hand, today's tennis match gives me the answer that I already knew, that the way is still very long," he said.

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