Talk to any Australian battler about the expectation of fans and an unforgiving media on home turf, and they would tell you its weight is palpable – at its worst extent, crippling.
While not experiencing that kind of crowd reception in Melbourne, 18-year-old Jannik Sinner harboured a weight of a different kind: That of a tennis world tuned in to his every move.
There’s good reason why, but more on that later.
On Wednesday, his Australian Open journey was thwarted, abruptly, by gusty winds and a rampaging Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, fresh off defeating Canadian world No.13 Denis Shapovalov.
The score read 6-4 6-4 6-3 and the stats, while sometimes deceptive, told the story.
Sinner was error-prone from game one, like his opponent.
But the willingness to prematurely pull the trigger wielded far more failure than success, striking 47 unforced errors to only 16 winners.
And while his endeavours forward to volley proved effective as the match wore on, it did little to stem the onslaught across the net.
To Fucsovics’ credit, there was little Sinner could do.
“He was playing better today. He deserved to win. He served better,” the Italian told reporters post-match.
“I have to learn to beat these players – the solid ones, the 40, 50, 60 of the world – the important thing now for me is to start beating those right in front of me.”
A timely reminder, though: This wunderkind was born after the advent of the internet.
The Italian’s 2019 saw his ranking slashed from 549 to well inside the top 100 (78, to be exact), and notched up his maiden top-15 win against French entertainer Gael Monfils. Red hot.
If there were any Sinner cynics left come November, he proceeded to wow Milan crowds by hoisting the ATP Next Gen Finals trophy, defeating Australian Alex de Minaur in the final.
The South Tyrol native became water cooler fodder in tennis circles for his power – effortless off both wings – which piqued the interest of 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer.
“What I like about him (Sinner) is he’s almost got the same speed of shot on forehand and backhand,” Federer told UK’s Metro.
“He has great footwork for a big guy and then he can play again like most of the best movers in the world.”
High praise. Oh, and he trained with Rafael Nadal leading into the fortnight, just to add to his healthy list of supporters.
Bolstered under the tutelage of renowned coach Riccardo Piatti, and hunting his first-ever grand slam main draw victory, Sinner delivered, seeing off Australian qualifier Max Purcell 7-6(2) 6-2 6-4.
But after his second-round loss on Melbourne Park’s backcourts, Sinner’s quest to ascend higher will have to wait, not that Wednesday’s result fazed him.
“Nothing’s changed. It’s just one match. Obviously disappointing losing in the second round, but, you know, we have to keep going,” Sinner said.
“I don’t like these days, but you have to accept them and then try to be ready for the next tournament.”
Precocious thinking for a man with the weight of the tennis world on his shoulders.