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Jannik Sinner’s breakthrough at the Canadian Open

By Sigurd Neubauer


“I am a big fan of Jannik Sinner,” proclaims President Vesa Ponkka of the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC). “When he plays there are no excuses, including when he loses. The Italian is in fact a great role model for younger players.”

This past Sunday, Sinner, 21, won big at the Canadian Open, also known as the Canada Masters, where he secured his first ATP Masters 1000 title. He defeated Alex de Minaur, 24, 6-4 6-1 in the final.

Responding to what his victory means for the Italian, Ponkka, who is also one of America’s preeminent coaches, points out that Sinner has been a top 10 player for a while. At the tournament, which is branded as the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, “Sinner was tested, and he came through. His victory will boost his confidence as he’s going into the upcoming US Open,” Ponkka says.

The veteran coach assesses that Sinner will be one of the top four favorites – along with Novak Djokovic, 36, Carlos Alcaraz, 20, and Daniil Medvedev, 27, – to win the tournament.

“Sinner is playing tennis at its very best,” Ponkka says, referring in particular to his victory over Tommy Paul, 26, 6-4 6-4 during the semifinal. “In the final, de Minaur never had any chance as Sinner completely dominated the match.”

Ponkka nonetheless concedes that the Canadian Open had been a great tournament for de Minaur who the veteran coach assesses can become a top 10 player in the world. “The Australian is a very difficult player to defeat,” he explains.

Commenting on Sinner’s public persona, Ponkka explains that “he’s a great professional who is respectful of the game and of his opponents.”

The Italian, he adds, has a quieter nature compared to some of his other super star competitors. “But Sinner is his own man, and we’ll start to know his personality better once he begins to win Grand Slams.”

The Canadian Open was marked by heavy rain descending on Montreal. Photo credit: Paul Rivard

Sinner is a role model for younger players: Ponkka

The Canadian Open

All the best players in the world, provided that they are healthy, of course, make an effort to participate. Djokovic was the only top player missing, but he’s playing in the unfolding Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Responding to why the Serb skipped the Canadian Open, Ponkka notes that he’s saving his energy for the upcoming Grand Slam in New York City. “Djokovic knows what he needs to do to prepare for a Grand Slam; he knows his own game; his level, and most of all his confidence.” 

Because of his vast experience – as Djokovic has won 23 Grand Slam men’s singles titles – “he knows how many matches and tournaments he needs for preparation.” 

The Serb holds the most major titles won by a male player in history. “He’s not playing for money, points, or tournament victories but rather for history. That’s his motivation,” explains the JTCC President.

Tournament director Valérie Tétreault. Photo credit: Paul Rivard/National Bank Open

Vesa Ponkka is one of America’s preeminent tennis coaches. Photo credit: Courtesy 

Alcaraz, Ruud, and Tsitsipas

During the quarterfinals, Alcaraz, the No. 1 in the World, lost in an upset to Paul 6-3 4-6 6-3. 

Alcaraz is trying to find his hardcourt game following the grass and clay court seasons, respectively,” the JTCC President explains, adding that the Spaniard committed some unforced errors during the Canadian Open that he doesn’t think he’ll repeat in New York City. 

“Even when he plays at 80 percent, Alcaraz is very strong as everyone knows that he’ll play very well at the US Open. His performance at the Canadian Open may be a little warning to him.”

Other top players who didn’t do well either at the Canadian Open were Casper Ruud, 24, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, 25, who are both top 10. 

“2023 has been a year of ups-and-downs for both of them. It evidently takes both of them some time to find their hardcourt game, respectively after having played on grass and clay.”

Ponkka points out that the Norwegian and Greek are both one level below Sinner. “It will be difficult for Ruud to defend his accomplishment at the 2022 US Open where he lost to Alcaraz in the final. If Ruud gets to the semifinal this year, it will be a good tournament for him.”

Ruud and Tsitsipas are both struggling with confidence, the veteran coach explains.

Jessica Pegula prevails at the 2023 Canadian Open. Photo credit: Pascal Ratthé/National Bank Open


Jessica Pegula, 29, trounced Liudmila Samsonova, 24, 6-1 6-0 during the Canadian Open final.

“She was super impressive. It is now clear that Pegula will be a favorite for the Grand Slam title in New York,” Ponkka explains while adding that the American “is peaking at the right time as she appears closer than ever to winning a Slam.”

Once she’s in New York, “the crowd will be behind her, and it will be interesting to see how she manages the pressure as expectations will be very high.”

Pegula, who is ranked No.3 in the world, defeated Iga Świątek 6-2 6-7(4) 6-4 during the semifinal.

Świątek is No.1 in the world and has won four Grand Slam titles.

Responding to what Pegula’s victory over Świątek means for the American, the JTCC President points out that “for everyone one beats the number one player in the world and a Grand Slam champion, this will inevitably boost her confidence. Going into the US Open, I expect Pegula to be super confident.”

Ponkka also expects Aryna Sabalenka, 25, Elena Rybakina, 24, along with Samsonova, and of course, Świątek to perform well in New York.

 Pegula will be a crowd favorite at the upcoming US Open: Ponkka 
IGA Stadium in Montreal, Canada. Photo credit: Paul Rivard/National Bank Open
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