Pages: The good Sinner

John Pages
John Pages

We are all sinners. This Holy Week, in the masses that we’ve attended or the retreats that we’ve joined (ours was Fr. Manoling Francisco’s Triduum), we are reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But there is one Sinner that is good. No, he’s not Barabbas or Caiaphas or Judas.

He’s Jannik Sinner. If you follow the sport of tennis, you’ve heard of the 22-year-old Italian. He won the Australian Open last January and is on an 18-1 winning streak this 2024.

What do I love about Sinner’s game?

First, his mentality. He’s always composed and unruffled. You’d never know whether he’s winning or losing. When he was down two sets to love in Melbourne against Daniil Medvedev, he should have looked downtrodden. But like the mindset of Novak “The GOAT” Djokovic, his psyche was steady and strong. Sinner never gave up and ended up winning the third to fifth sets for his first major. When asked in an interview about his best quality, his reply: “Staying calm.”

Number Two: Sinner’s footwork. Tall (6-foot-2) and lanky (he weighs just 167 lbs.), he’s able to glide and float on the tennis rectangle. He’s not rushed. And this we attribute to his childhood. At the age of three, his first game wasn’t swinging his Head Speed racket. It was skiing. By the age of eight, he became a national giant slalom skiing champion. Next to skiing, his other love was football. And it wasn’t until the age of 13 when he finally chose to do tennis full time.

This background in skiing and football helps explain why Sinner’s footwork and agility are unmatched. Skiing, in particular, requires exceptional balance, strong legs and core strength; it involves quick changes in direction — all important in tennis.

Third, Sinner’s powerful, wristy, on-the-rise groundstrokes. He doesn’t possess the elegant and graceful strokes of his idol, Roger Federer. He rarely deploys the dropshot like Carlos Alcaraz. But what he owns is the destructive force of his groundstrokes.

He pummels that forehand and thrashes the yellow orb. His clobbers and wallops that backhand, his favorite shot. Cross-court or down-the-line, his topspin game has no weaknesses. He can slice, run around his backhand for an inside-out forehand; he can sprint to the net to retrieve a drop volley. But mostly, he just whacks and drubs that ball left to right to left.

CARLOS ALCARAZ. If there’s a Sinner, there’s a Saint... Carlos. Will this duo become the Federer and Rafael Nadal of this era? Yes! So far, the duo have a 4-4 win-loss record against each other. And while the likes of Zverev, Rune, Rublev and Tsitsipas are worthy opponents, the Italian and Spaniard are incomparable.

I love how their games contrast. Alcaraz, only 20, is flashy while Sinner is methodical. Carlos has deft touch while Jannik has ruthless power from the baseline. But both are also similar. They possess two of the most lethal forehands; both are well-coached (Juan Carlos Ferrero and Darren Cahill); they love to urge the audience to clap. And today when Sinner beats Grigor Dimitrov in the Miami Open, they’ll swap rankings as Sinner becomes world no. 2.

Best of all, they are two of the best role models. It’s rare to hear something bad being said about the two. With Roger’s retirement last year and Rafa’s this year and Novak’s in the next year or so, tennis — a game often played by “sinners” who destroy rackets or shout profane words — is to be led by Sinner and Alcaraz, two good people.


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