Italian tennis icon Adriano Panatta does not have a "feeling of jealousy" that Jannik Sinner will shatter all his records, calling him an "exceptional" athlete.
Panatta, 73, remains the only Italian man in history to win a Grand Slam title when he triumphed at the 1976 French Open. He is also the only player to defeat Bjorn Borg, at the Parisian Slam, doing so on multiple occasions.
1976 was the pinnacle of Italian men's tennis. Aside from winning his only major title at Roland Garros, Panatta also bagged the Italian Open in Rome, where he saved an astonishing 11 match points in his first-round match. He attained a career-high of World No. 4 and finished that season by winning the Davis Cup for Italy.
It was not until 2023 that a genuine successor to Panatta emerged on the scene. Sinner has matched some of Panatta's major accomplishments including tying him as the best-ranked Italian man in history and played a massive role in helping Italy lift a second Davis Cup title this past week, 47 years on since Panatta's heroics.
Speaking to Corriere della Sera, the 73-year-old joked that Sinner still has work to do to win in Rome and Roland Garros to break his record, something he has yet to do, but stated that he was not envious of Sinner's success.
Having spoken ill of Sinner in the past because of his unavailability to represent Italy at the Tokyo Olympics and most recently in the Davis Cup Finals group stage, Panatta showered the 22-year-old with praise. He is only disappointed that Sinner has arrived on the stage so late in his life.
"Fortunately! Now Rome and Paris are missing (from Sinner's CV) and then we're done. I'm just happy, I don't know the word envy. I would hate myself if I had a feeling of jealousy towards these guys. I did what I had to do almost fifty years ago, now it's up to the young people, as it should be. But do you think I shouldn't be happy? I am happy."
"Come on, I'm dying and he's being born: he's very good, polite, he's exceptional on the court, he fights for every ball, he is an example."