By Christian Radnedge
LONDON - Italian Jannik Sinner looked on the bright side after his defeat by top seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon on Tuesday, saying that his performance showed he can compete at the very top in the future.
The 20-year-old went two sets up against the 20-time Grand Slam champion on Centre Court, but lost his momentum as the wily experience of his opponent carried the Serbian through to win 5-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.
At times, though, 10th seed Sinner had the six-time Wimbledon champion exasperated with his precise shot placement and were it not for a couple of unforced errors in the third set the Italian could have gone on to win the match.
Despite another quarter-final defeat in a major following his last-eight exit at the Australian Open in January, Sinner was hopeful of returning next year as a better player and claiming a first win against a top-five ranked opponent.
"I like to challenge myself. I am a guy who likes the competition. That's also the reason why I practise for - having special matches and in important rounds, like today, quarter-finals," he told a news conference.
"I know that I have still a lot to improve, but I think I can be happy after this Wimbledon. I showed some good tennis. I think also him (Djokovic) after he lost the second set, he had to raise his level, because otherwise he most likely was losing.
"But, you know, it's tennis. I know that he's one of the best players of all time. Yeah, let's see in the future how it goes."
Sinner, who grew up in the mountainous Tyrol region in Northern Italy, came to tennis late, having focused on football and skiing as a youngster and even winning a national championship in giant slalom when he was eight.
That experience may help to explain how Sinner could find angles across the court as if he was navigating a tricky ski slope.
"I enjoyed when I was young doing different sports... If you do other sports, I think the coordination is good. You know how to use your feet and hands, depending on what kind of sport you do," he said.
For now, 13th-ranked Sinner can concentrate on re-entering the world's top 10 which he did for the first time last year.