‘Devastated’ de Minaur will keep fighting to improve

Rod Laver Arena crowd farewells vanquished de Minaur

Source: Australian Open

Alex de Minaur has lost his place in the world’s top 10 but not the belief he can challenge for grand slam glory, after his golden summer came to a “devastating” end in Melbourne.

The de Minaur of old might have looked upon his Australian Open fourth-round 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 now.

And he said his higher expectations meant that after his five-set loss to Andrey Rublev, he felt only despair and a fresh ferocity to prove he belongs among 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 was bagelled in the decider by the weary Russian, who 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 the 24-year-old’s efforts in a match played at an “insane” level of athleticism, while American legend John McEnroe felt de Minaur had only been beaten by a man playing “one of the greatest fifth sets I’ve ever seen in a grand slam”.

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.

“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,” de Minaur said.

“But it’s completely changed because now I’m sitting here and I’m absolutely devastated. 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.”

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

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

“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 next Monday, de Minaur accepts there’s one old familiar area, in particular, he has to further sharpen despite distinct improvements this summer.

“Realistically, again, I think what let me down was my serve. My serve was something that has been really good to me this whole Australian summer and, today, it kind of disappeared,” he said.

“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.”

Former women’s Open quarter-finalist Alicia Molik has seen enough to believe de Minaur “absolutely can win a slam”, suspecting his best chance may come on grass at Wimbledon.

Molik pointed out how Rublev had to “red line” on every shot to deny Minaur a quarter-final berth.

“I’ve never seen two guys take the ball on the rise on every single stroke. It was quite phenomenal,” she said on Monday. “It’s like Agassi playing Agassi.

“Alex has identified that he wants to play more aggressively. Maybe up the risk on his serve a little bit more.

“I love watching him because he can flip the switch pretty quickly to make players really uncomfortable.

“Watching last night, if it would have been in the US open or Wimbledon, I think no question, Alex would have won that match.

“It would have then put him in contention to win the slam.

“He’s got to bide his time a little bit, but he’s one of those guys that can take your time away and can surprise you.

“His variation, he can play quick, he can play slow. He’s got incredible feel and touch.”


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