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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, April 2, 2021

 
Jannik Sinner

Nineteen-year-old Jannik Sinner rallied past Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to become the youngest man to reach the Miami Open final in 14 years.

Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty

Don't let the serene smile and generous spirit Jannik Sinner shows accommodating every selfie request from fans fool you.

The 19-year-old Italian may look like a diligent college student soaking up lessons from rallies and reimagining replies.

More: Sinner Calms Chaos

In reality, Sinner is a shrewd tennis thief who robs reaction time from opponents with his electric power and steals space on court with stealth movement.

Sinner pulled off a masterful heist in Miami today.

Rallying from a break down in the decider, Sinner streaked through five of the final six games beating Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to become the fourth youngest man in history to surge into the Miami Open final.




Playing just his third Masters 1000 main draw, Sinner is through to his first Masters final becoming the youngest man to reach the title match in Miami since a 19-year-old Novak Djokovic did it back in 2007. Sinner struck 25 more winners than the former Wimbledon semifinalist, 37-12, joining Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic as the fourth teenager in the 36-year-history of the Miami Open to make the final.

It is Sinner's eighth career Top 20 win, including his second triumph over Bautista Agut in as many months. Last month, Sinner edged the Spaniard 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the Dubai round of 16 on a much quicker court than the gritty Miami hard court.




Today, Sinner dropped serve to open the match, sprayed shots throughout the opening set, trailed 1-3 in the decider and was on the verge of going down a double break when he tuned up his game and amped up the volume and accuracy of his baseline drives. Sinner spent much of the rest of the match pushing the veteran around behind the baseline and snatching his spot in the final rather than waiting for Bautista Agut to give it to him.

"We played a tough one in Dubai, a very tough one, and now a tough one here," Sinner told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward. "He's a very very solid player, maybe one of the most solid players on tour.

"I tried to return the serves, especially the second serves, a little bit deeper and keeping my game simple and trying to make it in the best possible way. So I'm very happy about today."

It's a historic day. Sinner is the fifth youngest man to reach a Masters 1000 singles final and will have a solid shot against either fourth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev or 26th-seeded Pole Hubert Hukacz in Sunday's final.  

Denied the shot at his second Masters final, Bautista Agut declared Sinner a young talent who "has everything."

"Well, of course he has a great future coming up. He has everything, no?" Bautista Agut said. "He has a big serve, he's tall, he's big, he moves well, he has very good groundstrokes. Well, mentally he's also great and improving. He has a great future coming up."

In the sixth game, Sinner made his move detonating a crackling 26-shot rally torching  forehand down the line for triple break point. A Sinner drive elicited a netted forehand as the 21st-seeded Italian broke back at love leveling for three-all.

Testing the teenager in the seventh game, Bautista Agut earned three break points. Sinner saved all three, thumped an ace down the T and carved out a fine backhand volley holding for 4-3.

Accuracy and depth are Bautista Agut's trademarks and he branded those qualities in the 11th game. Stepping closer to the line, the Spaniard threaded the needle with a forehand down the line then swatted a sitter forehand for break point. Bautista Agut banged away at Sinner's two-handed drawing a netted backhand to break for 6-5.




Serving for the set, the Spaniard stuck a stretched sliding lob down the line, blocked a volley winner and a serve winner for triple set point. Pumping his second ace down the middle, Bautista Agut wrapped up the 51-minute opener.

The oldest man still standing in the field played a cleaner set as Sinner pressed rallies at times but misfired more committing 26 unforced errors.

Tugging on his lavender-colored baseball cap, Sinner stared down triple break point in the seventh game of set two. Bautista Agut inexplicably failed to play a Sinner backhand believing it would float long. The ball caught the line erasing one of the one break points. Sinner saved four break points in all bolting a backhand down the line for 4-3.




A reflex volley from Sinner helped him salvage another hold under stress. Residual hangover from lost opportunity haunted the 32-year-old Spaniard. Bautista Agut, who hadn't had much success with the drop shot, bunted a backhand dropper that tripped on the top of the tape and trickled back on his side as Sinner broke to take the second set.

Peering out beneath the brim of his vanilla baseball cap, the Spaniard expressed little emotion and continued his tireless baseline probing. Sometimes, Bautista Agut redirected Sinners shots down the line and other times he repelled pace with angles. Sinner sprayed a jumping backhand as Bautista Agut broke at love to go up 2-1 in the decider.

The sidespin Sinner can impart on his crosscourt forehand surprised the veteran a few times, including a crackling spinning forehand that fell in earning the Italian three break points in the sixth game. Bautista Agut cracked under the baseline barrage putting a backhand into net as Sinner regained the break for 3-3.

Scoreboard pressure and the sheer pace and depth of Sinner's drives got to Bautista Agut in the end. The man, who upset Djokovic at the 2019 Miami Open, was pushed back into defensive positions. Sinner streaked through eight of the last nine points slashing out a love hold to close in two hours, 28 minutes.




The last three teenagers to contest the Miami Open final—Agassi, Nadal and Djokovic—of course all went on to rise to the world No. 1 ranking and win Grand Slam championships. Hall of Famer John McEnroe is one of several champions who have praised Sinner as a future Grand Slam champion, but the teenager is wisely focusing on daily improvement rather than major dreaming.

"No. 1 in the world is very long way to go," Sinner said after his quarterfinal conquest of Alexander Bublik. "Obviously, I'm working for that but I'm not thinking about that to be honest.

"I'm looking to improve day after day and that and we'll see what's happening in the next 20 years hopefully."

Fans showered Sinner with cheers and he shared the love with a selfie-fest afterard.

On Sunday, Sinner will try to extend this picture-perfect Miami run playing his maiden Masters final for his third title in as many finals. 

 

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