Paris, Jun 1 (EFE).- Rising Italian tennis star Jannik Sinner suffered a surprising French Open second-round loss on Thursday, succumbing to unheralded German Daniel Altmaier in a five-set marathon.
The 21-year-old No. 8 seed had become the favorite to advance to the semifinals out of the bottom quarter of the draw after Russian world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev was upset on Tuesday.
But he let two match points slip away in the fourth set before falling just short in a dramatic fifth set to lose 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (9-7), 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.
The Italian appeared to have the contest under control when he took the opening set thanks to numerous unforced errors by his 79th-ranked opponent in the tiebreaker, which ended after the minimum seven points when Altmaier netted a forehand.
He then had a golden chance with the 24-year-old German serving at 2-2, 0-40 in the second set, but three consecutive unforced errors let Altmaier off the hook and proved to be very costly for Sinner.
A series of routine service holds then ensued before that set also came down to a tiebreaker.
But this time the underdog came out on top when he converted his fifth set point with a net approach off a poorly executed drop shot and then an overhead winner.
Although the match was more competitive than expected through two hours and 11 minutes of play, Sinner seemed to put the first two sets behind him and find another gear at the start of the third when he notched a key break of serve in the fourth game with a blistering running backhand winner.
The Italian wrapped up that set handily and then rallied from an early deficit in the fourth set to earn a pair of match points when serving at 5-4.
On one of them, he took control of the point and forced Altmaier to throw up a high defensive lob that landed in the middle of the court.
But the Italian proceeded to hit a weak overhead right at the German, whose forehand passing shot clipped the top of the net and bounced over Sinner’s racket.
After his miraculous escape, Altmaier clinched that set in yet another tiebreaker and then took a 5-3 lead in the decider.
Although Sinner rallied to even the fifth set at 5-5 and saved four match points in the final game of the contest (one on a forehand passing shot winner off an overhead by his opponent), the German clinched victory in five hours and 26 minutes with an ace on match point.
Afterward, Altmaier credited his team for his recent success on clay, which also included a quarterfinal berth at the Madrid Open last month.
“In the past months, me and my team have been just putting so much effort in, all together,” the Germany player told reporters. “That’s why this victory is a team effort.”
Sinner, for his part, admitted to being unsure about his tactics against his second-round opponent but vowed to be better in the future.
“I had my opportunities. I couldn’t find a right way how to win the points,” the Italian said in his post-match press conference. “I was a little bit unfortunate at some points. But this is the sport. I will come back stronger.”
In other second-round men’s results on Thursday, 2022 Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud of Norway dropped a set but defeated 129th-ranked Italian Giulio Zeppieri 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 and ninth-seeded American Taylor Fritz overcame a shaky start to defeat 78th-ranked Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
In the night match on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Alexander Zverev showed some of his best form since returning from a serious ankle injury that forced him to retire from last year’s French Open semifinals against eventual champion Rafael Nadal, easing past 86th-ranked Alex Molcan of Slovakia 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
In women’s singles, Polish world No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek continued her steady march through the draw by brushing aside 102nd-ranked American Claire Liu 6-4, 6-0, fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan rolled past 50th-ranked Czech Linda Nozkova 6-3, 6-3, 6th-seeded American Coco Gauff cruised past 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 and seventh-seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur routed 122nd-ranked Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin 6-2, 6-3. EFE