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De Minaur’s brave Paris bid ended by resilient Zverev

Alex De Minaur battled courageously but to no avail against Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

Alex De Minaur battled courageously but to no avail against Olympic champion Alexander Zverev. Photo: AAP

The Paris dream is over for Alex de Minaur, his hopes of reaching the French Open semi-final ground into the Roland Garros clay-court dust by the relentless Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

The first Australian man into the quarter-finals since Lleyton Hewitt two decades ago, de Minaur’s improbable adventure came to a halt in his first prime-time night slot on Court Philippe Chatrier as the towering German prevailed 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

De Minaur was far from disgraced in a straight-sets defeat early on Thursday (Australian time) at the end of a glorious breakthrough Roland Garros adventure in which he’d proved he could live with the best, even on his least productive surface.

“I put up a hell of a fight … against a quality opponent,” he said.

“[I] had my chances, probably should have taken the second set, and we would have been in for a proper battle.”

“I left my heart out there. I did everything I could. It just wasn’t good enough.”

Ultimately, however, Zverev proved too strong as he took his record against the Australian to 8-2.

It was a singular effort from Zverev, who had been embroiled in two exhausting five-setters in his past two matches and been on court four hours longer than the Aussie.

But there was no sign of weariness, nor of any distraction from outside events with his trial for the alleged assault of an ex-partner still going on in Germany.

De Minaur attacked, never giving Zverev a moment of peace as he tried to rush him out of his comfort zone.

But the Olympic gold medallist was every bit as tough as the lightning Aussie, who never stopped fighting, even breaking back when the German was serving for the match at 5-3.

It proved a magnificent tie from the start, as a blistering 25-stroke rally ended by a de Minaur drop-shot winner set the tone in the second game.

But there were a host of them, some extraordinary exchanges, such as the second-set epic in which de Minaur leapt in the air only to miss Zverev’s lob but still had the speed to scuttle back, retrieve the ball and ultimately dig out the point.

Cheered on again by his new French teenage “superfan” Paul – decked out in a replica of “Demon’s” NSW blue kit – there was plenty of resilience from the 25-year old early on, but aggression was clearly his modus operandi.

He battled back from an early break down to level up with a couple of breathtaking low backhand volleys and an extraordinary running lob.

But one dismal service game at 3-3 effectively cost him the opening set, a couple of careless backhand errors compounded by a double fault gifting the key break.

In the breezy conditions, serving was problematic for both players as double faults led both to getting broken in the second stanza.

De Minaur had his big chance at 6-5, when another lovely lob earned him set point, but Zverev was resilience personified, not only rescuing the game but the coming down from 4-0 in the tiebreak to earn a set point himself after outlasting the Sydneysider in another amazing 39-shot rally.

A shattered de Minaur then hit a forehand long, recognising that he would have to pull off the first comeback from two sets down in his career.

Another break in the sixth game of the third set, again ending with a double fault, looked fatal to de Minaur’s chances of being the first Australian man into the Roland Garros semis since Pat Rafter in 1997.

He broke back with a fabulous drop volley, only for Zverev to crank up the pressure again to break de Minaur for a fifth time and seal victory in just under three  hours.

-AAP

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