There was no easing in gently for Jannik Sinner on Tuesday at the US Open. The 11th seed was forced to work overtime to see off the resilient Daniel Altmaier in a five-set epic in the first round at the hard-court Grand Slam in New York.
The Italian prevailed 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 against the World No. 93 in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting. Sinner appeared to have taken control of the three-hour, 35-minute encounter after easing to the second and third sets with some typically forceful baseline hitting, but tournament debutant Altmaier enjoyed a fourth-set resurgence to push the six-time tour-titlist the distance.
“It’s very tough, obviously, playing the first round in every tournament, and especially here where I think I can play well,” said Sinner in his on-court interview. “I had moments where I played well and I had moments where I could play better, but [in the] first round it’s obviously a very tough one.”
Despite the one-sided nature of the fifth-set scoreline, it was Sinner who had been in early trouble in the decider as the 21-year-old recovered 0/40 for a crucial hold of serve at 1-1. He then secured an immediate break for a 3-1 lead after coming out on top in a stunning break point during which incredible defence from both players had the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd on their feet.
“There were some very fun points, but there were moments when there was not a lot of rhythm,” said Sinner. “It was tough to play because it was a little bit windy also. As I said, for the first round I can be happy, happy to be in the next round and now most importantly try to recover in the best possible way.
“For me, it’s very important to play best of five sets, because I really like it. Like today, it can be very long, but I just enjoy to stay on the court… It’s always very special coming back to New York. It was the first Grand Slam where I qualified, so it’s a very special place for me.”
Sinner, who reached the fourth round in New York in 2021, will next face Christopher Eubanks after the home qualifier defeated Spaniard Pedro Martinez 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(3).
Lorenzo Musetti was the second Italian to claim a five-set victory Tuesday when he recovered from a deep hole in the final-set tie-break to defeat David Goffin 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9). The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals contender trailed 4/7 in the first-to-10 tie-break but two courageous drop shots helped him work his way back into the decider.
At 9/9, at the end of an extended rally, Musetti redirected play with a rifled a down-the-line backhand winner to bring up his second match point, which he converted when an exhausted Goffin netted a forehand, after which the 20-year-old collapsed on the court in celebration.
Musetti next faces World No. 181 Dutch qualifier Gijs Brouwer, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 winner over Winston-Salem Open champion Adrian Mannarino.
Veteran Fabio Fognini completed a hat-trick of Italian five-set victories when he rallied from two sets down to defeat Aslan Karatsev 1-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4. The 35-year-old will play the winner of second seed Rafael Nadal and Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata. In 2015 at Flushing Meadows, Fognini came from two sets down to stun Nadal in five sets in the third round.
Also needing five sets to advance Tuesday was Croatian Borna Coric, a 6-2, 7-6(5), 3-6, 4-6, 7-5 winner over French qualifier Enzo Couacaud, who was broken to love when he served for the match in the 10th game of the final set.