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Jannik Sinner reaches Miami Open final

Tennis: Miami Open

Apr 2, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Jannik Sinner of Italy waves to the crowd after his match against Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain (not pictured) in a men’s singles semifinal in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI -- Jannik Sinner’s groundstrokes consistently travel more than 80 mph, impressive even by pro tennis standards, and the 19-year-old Italian has joined some fast company at the Miami Open.

On Friday, Sinner became the fourth teenager to reach the Miami men’s final. The others: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi.

“It’s nice, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Sinner said. “The road to have a big name is long. It’s not done in one week of a tournament.”

The baseline basher, playing in only his third top-level ATP event, rallied to beat Spanish counterpuncher Roberto Bautista Agut in the semifinal, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Sinner’s next opponent will be the winner of the second semifinal between No. 4-seeded Andrey Rublev and No. 26 Hubert Hurkacz.

Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer skipped the tournament, creating opportunities for the four semifinalists. Each was trying to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title.

“I have a good team. ... We knew many players were not coming here, especially the big three,” Sinner said. “We approached this tournament to go very, very far.”

On the women’s side, No. 1-ranked Ash Barty will play for her second consecutive Miami title Saturday against No. 8 Bianca Andreescu, who edged No. 23 Maria Sakkari in a three-setter that ended at 1:35 a.m. Friday.

“I love a challenge,” Andreescu said, “and I know she’s going to challenge me on Saturday.”

The lanky Sinner, seeded 21st, has improved his ranking from 78th at the start of last year. He created a buzz by reaching the quarterfinals in his French Open debut in September, and is projected to climb to at least No. 24 next week.

“He has everything, no?” Bautista Agut said. “He has a big serve, he’s big, he moves well, he has very good groundstrokes. Mentally he’s also great and improving. He has a great future.”

Sinner’s matchup against the No. 7-seeded Bautista Agut was a contrast in styles, with Sinner’s overpowering ground game gradually wearing down his dogged opponent.

Sinner caught a break at 3-all in the second set, when Bautista Agut let a ball go on break point, and it landed on the line.

“I thought that ball was going out, and it touches the line by one millimeter,” Bautista Agut said. “Tennis, sometimes it’s crazy, no? One ball can make a big difference in the match.”

Sinner went on to hold, and broke in the final game of the set to even the match.

Down a break in the final set, Sinner rallied again and closed out the win with one last crushing groundstroke to break at love.

A fist pump was the extent of his celebration. He has an impassive demeanor he attributes to his parents, who make their living at a restaurant in northern Italy - his dad as a cook and his mother as a server.

“They are working every day a simple job,” he said. “They know what it means to work hard.”