VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis congratulated Italy on Monday after tennis player Jannik Sinner became the first man from the country to win a Grand Slam singles title in nearly half a century.
Sinner won the Australian Open title on Sunday and Francis made the recognition during an audience at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona.
“Today we have to congratulate the Italians because yesterday they won in Australia, that’s why we congratulate them too,” the Pope said.
Francisco noted that since tennis is an individual sport or played in doubles, “it would seem that the objective of the game is to be better than the opponent.”
“However, looking at the history of your club you can see that, in reality, since its English origin, it is an expression of the founders’ openness to the good that can come from abroad and to dialogue with other cultures.”
The Barcelona club was celebrating its 125th anniversary.
“In tennis, as in life, we can’t always win,” Francis added. “But it is an enriching challenge if you play politely and according to the rules. … Sports are not just about competition but also about relationships. And in the case of tennis, it is a dialogue that often becomes artistic.”
In November, Sinner also led Italy to its first Davis Cup title since 1976. Sinner and the rest of Italy’s Davis Cup-winning team will be honored by Italian president Sergio Mattarella on Thursday.
The last Italian to win a Grand Slam singles title was Adriano Panatta in 1976.
While Sinner is still No. 4 in the rankings, Panatta said that over the past four months he has proven that he deserves to be No. 1.
“He is an exceptional boy and one of the best export products we have,” Panatta told Italian radio. “He will surely win many Slams. He has a mix of great ability, great desire and great character. Furthermore, he knows how to handle himself in difficult moments. “I have rarely seen a player like that.”
Sinner recovered from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final.
AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis