Pope Francis praised Italy on Monday after tennis player Jannik Sinner won the country’s first Grand Slam singles champion in over 50 years. Sinner won the Australian Open on Sunday, and Francis acknowledged the victory at an audience with the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona.
“Today we have to congratulate the Italians because yesterday they won in Australia, so we congratulate them, too,” the pontiff went on to say. Also read: Australian Open 2024: Jannik Sinner Beats Daniil Medvedev To Claim Maiden Grand Slam
Francis observed that because tennis is an individual sport or played in doubles, “it would appear that the goal 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 openness of the founders to the good that can come from abroad and a dialogue with other cultures.” The Barcelona club was commemorating its 125th anniversary.
“In tennis, as in life, we can’t always win,” Francis explained. “But it’s an enriching challenge if you play it in an intelligent manner and follow the rules…. Sports are about more than just competition; they also include relationships. And in the case of tennis, the discussion frequently becomes artistic.” Also read: Wimbledon’s Grand Vision: A New Stadium and 38 Courts
Sinner also helped Italy win its first Davis Cup since 1976 in November. Sinner and the rest of Italy’s victorious team are set to be honoured by Italian President Sergio Mattarella this Thursday. Adriano Panatta was the last Italian to win a Grand Slam singles title, in 1976.
“He’s an exceptional kid and one of the best export products we have,” Panatta told Italian radio. “He will surely win many Slams. He’s got a mix of great skill, great desire and great character. Plus, he knows how to handle himself in difficult moments. I’ve rarely seen a player like that.” Also read: Australian Open 2024: Hsieh Su-Wei, Elise Mertens win women’s doubles title