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Tough Struff: Meet The German Veteran Looking To Take Down Sinner
4 Min Read · March 9, 2024

Fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden — and those watching on around the world — who are looking for drama should keep a close eye on Jan-Lennard Struff.

The German himself even used the word “crazy” to describe how many nail-biting finishes he has endured already in 2024. Nearly half of his sets this year have gone to tiebreaks, and seven have been deciding set tiebreaks (4-3).

On Friday in Indian Wells, Struff was at it again. He outlasted Borna Coric 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (9) in a night-time thriller, saving three match points.


“It’s crazy that so many matches go to a final set tiebreak,” Struff, who next faces the red-hot Jannik Sinner in the third round, told after practice Saturday. “In pre-season, I played a lot of tiebreaks as well. I like to serve good, but still. For sure, it’s crazy that so many matches come to a final set tiebreak.”

Results at his first tournament of the year in Hong Kong foreshadowed what was to come. Struff began by coming from a set down and saving nine match points to down Grand Slam winner Marin Cilic. He claimed the last two sets in tiebreaks.

What happened in the next round?

The 33-year-old lost from a set up against Sebastian Ofner — dropping the final two sets in ‘breakers.

Then at the Australian Open, Struff edged home hope Rinky Hijikata in a fifth-set tiebreak, prior to losing to Miomir Kecmanovic in a fifth-set tiebreak in which he held a pair of match points. And just preceding Indian Wells in Dubai, match points came but subsequently went in a third-set tiebreak against Hubert Hurkacz.

Struff’s massive serve means playing tiebreaks shouldn’t be a great surprise, but last year only about 25% of his sets stretched to tiebreaks. Only two were in deciding sets, including one at home in Stuttgart that saw Frances Tiafoe clinch the finale on an acrobatic final point after Struff held, yes, a match point.

Asked if he would tweak anything in his return games to try to manufacture more breaks, the father of two replied:

“I don’t go back to the fence to return like some players. It’s not my type of game style. I had a lot of break points (against Coric), so yesterday the return quality was pretty high,” added Struff, who carved out 15 break points against the Croatian. “I think Borna’s quality was really high and the match quality itself was really high.”

And thinking back to before 2024, last season proved to be bittersweet for the 6-foot-4 Struff. While a hip injury curtailed his campaign, he earlier became the first lucky loser to make the final of a Masters 1000 at 2023 Madrid. He extended opponent Carlos Alcaraz to a third set, too.

Struff came even closer to bagging his first title in Stuttgart, stopped by Tiafoe, and reached a career high No. 21 in the rankings. Starting 2023 ranked No. 150, Struff was named the ATP’s Comeback Player of the Year.

“On the road there are many good days, some setbacks, it’s all part of the game,” Struff said. “And I feel the last couple of years, I played pretty consistent, except for one year which wasn’t that great. Last season, I had a difficult time with the injury. But the first months of the year were just incredible, and I'm trying to continue putting a lot of work into achieving some more goals.”

Struff meets a Sinner who has tallied 16 consecutive matches, including the Australian Open final for a maiden Major title. The two have never faced off officially, but did hit together during an exhibition event on grass in Berlin in 2020.

“He’s just playing an unreal season so far,” Struff said. “And his (2023) was amazing. It will be difficult work to do but I’m really looking forward to the match. Try to put my best tennis out there and try to get a chance but obviously tough, tough opponent."

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