Jannik Sinner has credited Maria Sharapova with helping him become the youngest player in the top 75 as he stands on the verge of successive runs to the second week of the French Open.
The 19-year-old met the Russian superstar over dinner in 2019 and practiced with her later in the year.
“I had the pleasure to know Maria a little bit more. We practiced sometimes together and knowing her personality as well. It’s great,” said Sinner, one of five Italians in the third round this year in Paris.
“Especially for a guy who is 19 years old, and when Maria was there I was 18, it makes you grow obviously a little bit faster.”
Sinner and Sharapova, who won two French Opens in her career before calling it quits, bonded so well that they even felt comfortable enough to make a ‘Rockin around the Christmas tree’ video.
Having made the quarter-finals at last year’s French Open, Sinner faced a quick exit this time around when he needed to save a match point in a five-set opener against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.
He fired 43 winners in that tie before hitting 27 more to see off compatriot Gianluca Mager on Thursday.
Sinner faces Sweden’s Mikael Ymer for a place in the fourth round for a second year.
Should he make it to the quarter-finals, he will likely face the man who beat him at the same stage in 2020 – 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Since that meeting last year, it’s been mostly positives for the Sinner, winning a second career title in Melbourne on the eve of the Australian Open, reaching a first Masters final in Miami and breaking into the top 20 in April.
“I have been very, very lucky that I had the chance to practice with Rafa for two weeks and some tournaments practicing with Novak.
“Obviously very, very happy and honoured that I had the chance to meet them and sometimes to play with them as well, which makes things obviously more fun and enjoyable.”
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