Sinner sizzles in first night match

 - Nick McCarvel

The No.8 seed was in fierce form against world No.101 Muller

Jannik Sinner, first round, Roland-Garros 2023© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

The magic number on Monday night in Paris for Jannik Sinner was 30.

His straight-forward triumph over Frenchman Alexandre Muller saw the 21-year-old Italian No.8 seed largely untroubled in a 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 effort, earning Sinner not only his 30th match win of 2023 – but also a 30th triumph at a major in his young career.

He’s the first active men’s player under 22 years old to reach that 30-win mark at the Grand Slams, helped in part by quarter-final appearances at all four of the majors, including on debut in Paris in 2020. 

While Carlos Alcaraz has ascended to world No.1 and the US Open title and Holger Rune has a Masters 1000 title to his name, Sinner’s quiet, staid approach makes him no less lethal. He came out of the gates strong in Monday’s evening session and never looked under any real threat against the 26-year-old Muller, ranked world No.101.

Sinner next meets German Daniel Altmaier in round two, with a potential quarter-final match-up with No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev looming next week.

Seeds Grigor Dimitrov, Frances Tiafoe and Alexander Zverev feature in this part of the draw, too.

Sinner’s clay season has not been shining in the lead-up to Paris, a 7-3 mark interrupted in part by an illness that forced him out of Madrid a few weeks ago.

Jannik Sinner, first round, Roland-Garros 2023© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Story of the match

It took only 26 minutes for Sinner to soar to a 5-1, 40-love lead, though Muller showed his first signs of true opposition by saving that trio of set points and then earning a break point. But Sinner would hold his nerve to close out the set, denying Muller his first break chance since the opening game of the match.

As Muller settled better onto the Court Philippe-Chatrier stage, Sinner didn’t back down: He broke again to open set two and maintained that break lead throughout, though he couldn’t break again for a 6-3 second.

He’d close it out at 6-4, however, then broke Muller again in the very first game of set three, this one punctuated by a fist pump celebration from the Italian, who minutes later was leading 4-0.  

Sinner captured the match in one hour and 46 minutes, punctuated by an overhead winner on match point.

Jannik Sinner, Alexandre Muller, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Key stats

It was a flying day for Sinner in nearly every category, winning 83 per cent of first serve points played and facing down the only two break points he faced – both of those in the first set.

Sinner played with commendable depth of shot throughout, smacking 30 (there’s that number again!) winners but also moving forward in the court, going 15 from 19 at the net.

Muller had an uphill battle all evening, but could never make any true dent on the Sinner serve. The Frenchman won just 27 per cent of receiving points played.

Jannik Sinner, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

What the winner said

“I think I served quite well,” Sinner told Fabrice Santoro in an on-court interview. “Against the wind I had to be smart because he was returning very well. When you break someone earlier in a set it’s a little bit easier to serve. It’s never easy to play a French player here.”

“Hopefully I can show a good level in the next round,” he added.

On his co-coach Darren Cahill, whom he added to his team to work alongside Simone Vagnozzi last year: “I think the combination with Darren and Simone, it’s a very, very good combination. I feel very safe with them. Darren gives me a lot of motivation especially before tough matches. He knows tactically how to play other big players... this is a key point for me. Hopefully we can see the hard work on the court this week.”