Is in-form Jannik Sinner poised for a grand slam breakthrough at Australian Open?

Italian Jannik Sinner’s climb towards the top of men’s tennis could hardly be described as sluggish - unless of course a direct comparison is made with Spanish phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz.

While 20-year-old Alcaraz has exploded on to the scene in astonishing fashion and already has two grand slam titles under his belt, Sinner’s progress has been less spectacular.

In the 16 grand slams the 22-year-old Sinner has contested, his best run was at last year’s Wimbledon when he reached the semi-finals and was defeated by Novak Djokovic.

Alcaraz then defeated Djokovic in the final - a result that offered further proof that the Spaniard could reign supreme over the next generation for years.

Sinner is now making people question that logic.

The back end of 2023 appears to have been a pivotal moment for Sinner, whose game elevated to a new level.

A title run in Beijing in September included wins over Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev and he then beat Russian Medvedev again to win the Vienna title.

He then beat Djokovic in the round-robin stage of the ATP Finals in Turin and again a week later as he led Italy to the Davis Cup title in Malaga.

The clean-hitting Sinner was, without doubt, the hottest player on Tour in the final weeks of 2023, ending the year at a career high ranking of four in the world and something in his demeanour suggests he is now ready to take Melbourne by storm when the Australian Open begins next week.

While Sinner’s ferocious ball-striking from the baseline has never been in doubt, his serve is now a much more potent weapon and his willingness to mix up rallies and volley has added another dynamic to his game.

“There are some players that you won’t beat if you don’t have something different,” Eurosport analyst Alex Corretja said in the build-up to the Australian Open.

“You need something special to win majors. And I think Jannik, he’s been working on that and it’s paying off.

“He’s ready and I think he will be ready to win a major. In 2024? Why not?”

Sinner opted against playing a warm-up tournament ahead of the year’s opening Grand Slam, but spent a chunk of the off-season training with close friend Alcaraz in Spain.

He will now hope to step out of the Spaniard’s shadow.