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'Grandissimo': Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni welcomes home Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner

ROME (AP) — Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner returned to Italy on Tuesday amid great fanfare and headed straight to a private meeting with Premier Giorgia Meloni.

“Grandissimo,” Meloni said when Sinner walked into her office in the Chigi Palace.

“I want to show you something,” Meloni then said, before turning on a replay of match point from Sinner's five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in Sunday's final, during which the Italian rallied from two sets down.

“It's nice to experience it after the fact,” Sinner said.

Sinner and Meloni posed for photos as they held aloft together first the Australian Open trophy and then the Italian flag. Sinner then gave Meloni a warm embrace to end the meeting.

“The Italy we like: capable of believing in itself and reacting to difficult challenges. And to win,” Meloni said later on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. “Thank you, Jannik, for the example you gave us, to sports lovers, to our young people and to all of Italy.”

Sports Minister Andrea Abodi accompanied Sinner to the premier's office.

“It was an informal meeting,” Abodi told reporters. “They talked as if they were friends."

Abodi added that Meloni “knows tennis” and that they “joked about padel and maybe seeing each other again during the Italian Open.

“Jannik was very courteous with everyone, as there were a lot of people applauding him inside the palace,” Abodi said. “The trip in the car with the trophy was thrilling. It’s the first time this trophy has arrived in Italy.”

RAI state TV broadcasted Sinner's arrival at the airport in Rome, where he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with his orange racket bag strapped onto his shoulders. Sinner was also holding a green bag with gold-colored straps that appeared to contain his trophy.

Sinner became the first Italian man to win a Grand Slam singles title in nearly a half century — since Adriano Panatta won the French Open in 1976.

In November, Sinner also led Italy to its first Davis Cup title since 1976.

Sinner will hold a news conference with Italian Tennis and Padel Federation president Angelo Binaghi on Wednesday. Then he and his Davis Cup teammates are scheduled to be honored by Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday.

On Monday, Pope Francis congratulated Italy for Sinner’s victory.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis