Which is the land of tennis

South Tyrol, land of tennis talents

South Tyrol and winter sports - this connection is obvious; the Connection of South Tyrol and tennis closer than you think. If you are in South Tyrol from "White" sport speaks, it's not always about swings with two boards, no also with the club. Over 450 tennis courts there are in this country, distributed in around the 200 tennis courts. Anyone who wants to chase the yellow felt ball is spoiled for choice everywhere in South Tyrol. One of the most beautiful clubs, without a doubt, that of Rungg in the municipality of Eppan, has also been organizing a professional tennis tournament in the middle of the green of the Monticolo Forest for more than 20 years. 3 more take place in Val Gardena and one in Bolzano. In short: in South Tyrol the tennis aces give each other a hand.

But what would a tennis country be without its own tennis stars? And even there, South Tyrol has a lot to show for, with Andreas Seppi and Karin Knapp, two South Tyroleans made it into the top 100 of the world rankings in recent years. The next big tennis hope, the 17-year-old Jannik Sinner from Sexten in Hochpustertal, is well on its way there. He is the most successful tennis player of his age worldwide and is accordingly highly valued in professional circles. We met the personable, grounded tennis talent (who is actually also a ski talent) and talked to him about his path, his goals and his role model Roger Federer.

How did you get into tennis?

I stood on the tennis court for the first time when I was 3 years old. Until I was 9 years old, however, I never played intensively, only occasionally with my father or a tennis instructor. Tennis didn't play the main role at the time, my focus was on skiing, and I was also in the football club.

What places did you grow up in?

At the beginning I mainly played in San Candido, later on different courses in the Puster Valley. There are some really nice facilities there. But as I said, tennis wasn't my number 1 back then.

In 2008 you were Italian ski champion in giant slalom.

Exactly. But when I moved to St. Georgen near Bruneck to Heribert Mayr, who had already trained several strong South Tyrolean tennis players before me, the decision matured in me to just want to concentrate more on tennis.

Why did you choose tennis over skiing?

I chose tennis because it's a game that lasts longer than a minute or a minute and a half in competition. That appealed to me.

You've been training at the Piatti tennis center in Bordighera (Liguria) since you were 14, where world-class players come and go. How did he find out about your extraordinary talent?

That went via detours. At first head coach Riccardo Piatti didn't even want to see me. Back then, I wasn't the typical player who won every tournament across Italy and thus attracted the interest of the coaching elite. It was only because Massimo Sartori, Andreas Seppi's trainer, insisted that Piatti finally let himself be persuaded. The audition then went very well and he immediately made me an offer, which I accepted after a short thought.

What convinced him most about you?

I think that it was my ambition and my drive to always want to learn new things. And probably also my ability to do things quickly and correctly on the pitch.

What is your day-to-day training at Piatti like?

I exercise 6 to 7 hours a day. I spend half of it playing tennis, the other half doing strength, endurance and coordination training away from the court. On site, I get everything I need to grow as a player. The Croatian top 20 player Borna Coric is one of my training partners. And number 1 Novak Djokovic also drops in sometimes, then I play a few balls with him. But my absolute idol is Roger Federer.

With which you were allowed to train during the ATP tournament in Rome. When you are observed in the square, you radiate a calm similar to that of him ...

I hear that often, yes. What I admire most is that he is always focused and yet relaxed. On the pitch, but also away from it. He's just an amazing personality.

You are currently the best-placed U18 player in the world rankings. If this continues, nothing seems impossible on the way up.

I don't want to be driven crazy now. My goal is to get to the top, but you can't force it. It goes step by step. I know that I can already play at a similar level to the top players in the world, but I also know that I still have plenty of things to improve. For example my serve. But I consider experience to be even more important than these technical aspects. What sets me apart from the best of the best is the experience.

You train in Liguria and are planning around 30 tournaments around the globe this year alone. How do you like this "nomadic life" on the tour?

Let's put it this way, I don't mind right now. Because it enables me to do what I love to do best, which is play tennis. Nonetheless, I of course always like to return to my South Tyrolean homeland.

What do you like to do when you are at home?

I spend a lot of time with my family and friends. That's enough for me, because I don't need much else. Sometimes there is also a little tennis or soccer match with former club colleagues.

Do you also use the time at home to switch off from the hype that has recently developed around you?

To be honest, I am very happy to see that so many tennis fans follow my successes with enthusiasm. It is good to know that they are all behind me, I don't find it stressful.

Rainer Hilpold
Rainer Hilpold was born in Merano; not necessarily a man of the many and great, but rather the few, appropriate words. Mountain-lake, city-country, Mediterranean-Alpine, outdoor-indoor? “Fortunately, as a South Tyrolean you don't have to commit yourself. Only one thing should never be missing: enjoyment. "

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