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De Minaur ‘devastated’ by Australian Open exit

Source: Australian Open

Alex de Minaur is out of the Australian Open after letting his chance to reach the quarter-finals for the first time slip in a dramatic five-set capitulation to world No.5 Andrey Rublev.

The de Minaur of old might have looked on his defeat with little more than a shrug of resignation and a weary acceptance that his exit was “fair enough”.

But the new model ‘Demon’ promises he’s “night and day” a different player these days, and his higher expectations meant he felt only devastation after his five-set loss to Andrey Rublev and a fresh ferocity to prove he belongs in the world’s tennis elite.

Admirers were left trying to encourage de Minaur after he gave up a two-sets-to-one lead on Sunday and got bagelled in the decider by the weary Russian, who just went for broke and fired winner after winner to prevail 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-0.

Fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios applauded his efforts in a match played at an “insane” level of athleticism, while American legend John McEnroe reckoned de Minaur had only been beaten by a man playing “one of the greatest fifth sets I’ve ever seen in a grand slam”.

“It was one of the all-time great efforts by Rublev, who’s taken it up to the next level,” said McEnroe on Eurosport.

“De Minaur wanted it so bad – it’s a damn shame he lost but, unfortunately, someone has got to.”

But once again, de Minaur, whose heart can never be faulted, was found wanting in the denouement, largely overpowered by the world No.5’s heavier artillery even though he looked, physically, in better shape than the badly cramping Rublev.

“Night and day, I’m a different player. Maybe a couple years ago or even last year, I would be sitting here, maybe even happy with the result, saying, I probably shouldn’t have won, he’s higher ranked than I am, I took him to five sets, pretty decent effort,” mused de Minaur.

“But it’s completely changed because now I’m sitting here and I’m absolutely devastated because I saw it as a great opportunity and a match I strongly believed I could have won. But it just slipped away.

“It’s not a match that I thought I lost physically. It was just that the racquet was taken out of my hand. He was just standing and hitting from every single part of the court at just mach 10. That’s probably the most disappointing part of the whole match.”

De Minaur is still sure his triumphant summer leading into Melbourne, featuring wins over Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Carlos Alcaraz (albeit in an exhibition), have still instilled new confidence.

“I do think I’ve made a lot of steps in the right direction,” he mused.

“I think my level is quite there. Against top-10 opponents this year, I’m 3-1. It’s not the worst of things. I was very close today. I’m doing the right things.”

But set to drop out of the top-10 again after Melbourne, he accepts there’s one old familiar area, in particular, he has to sharpen up further despite distinct improvements this summer.

“Realistically, again, I think what let me down was my serve. There lies the difference in this match. My serve was something that has been really good to me this whole Australian summer and, today, it kind of disappeared. It’s a little bit disappointing.

“It is what it is. I mean, life goes on. I know the areas I’ve got to work on. Again, like I’ve done my whole career, I’ll get better, I’ll improve, and, hopefully, next time I’ll be able to take it to the next level.”

Ruthless Djokovic storms into Open quarter-finals

Novak Djokovic has sent an ominous warning to his Australian Open challengers with a brutal, record-setting straight-sets fourth-round win over Adrian Mannarino.

 

As he subjected Mannarino to a humiliating 6-0 6-0 6-3 defeat, Djokovic seemed almost offended at being consigned to his first day-time appearance at the Open in three years.

“It’s no secret I love to play at 7pm,” he said after a one-hour, 44-minute cameo.

“But it wasn’t bad at all today. The way I played today, I don’t mind playing in the day.”

The 10-time champion and world No.1 had featured in the prime-time night slot on Rod Laver Arena for his previous 15 matches at the Open, but was asked to play second fiddle to great home hope Alex de Minaur on Sunday.

And he really didn’t seem happy, as he took apart world No.19 Mannarino.

Even at 6-0, 2-0 up, Djokovic fought tooth and nail not to drop a game to the Frenchman, fist-pumping feverishly after saving break point, then celebrating almost as if he’d won the title after holding for a 3-0 advantage.

It was bizarre behaviour to say the least, but emphasised the super Serb’s insatiable appetite to gobble up Margaret Court’s record and capture an unprecedented 25th grand slam singles crown next Sunday.

Even if he doesn’t, the 36-year-old seems to be setting records every time he steps on court these days.

Sunday’s victory vaulted the top seed into an astonishing 58th grand slam-quarter-final, matching the feat of his long-time contemporary and now retired great Roger Federer.

Despite the crushing win, it wasn’t all smooth going for Djokovic, who coughed and spluttered throughout.

The 24-time major winner said he’d been ill during the first week, but Rod Laver – the legend whose name is on the centre-court arena that Djokovic has made his own – on Saturday posed the question: “‘Is he having us on?”

Djokovic had looked vulnerable in unconvincing wins over Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin before raising his game in a straight-sets third-round disposal of 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

But the GOAT made a point of reminding his rivals he planned on stepping up his level even further during the second week.

That he did in booking a last-eight date for Tuesday with American world No.12 Taylor Fritz, who denied 2023 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas a rematch with the Serb after upsetting the Greek seventh seed 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-3 6-3.

“You always want to be efficient,” Djokovic said.

“You always want to finish the job as soon as possible in a straight set.

“It’s not always possible because obviously you’re playing, as the tournament progresses, tougher opponents.

“But I wasn’t thinking about it. I was kind of going with the flow and the last couple of days has been really good.

“It’s going in a positive direction, health wise, tennis wise, so I’m really pleased with where I am at the moment.”

—AAP

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