January 16, 2019
Alex de Minaur is one of the players who will keep tennis truly great after Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic finally retire.
It became obvious at the last Next Gen tournament in Milan. The kid has star quality. He has guts, he has fire, he has passion and popularity.
If you’ll excuse the pun, De Minaur has the right demeanour.
I say “kid.” De Minaur is nineteen years old. Stardom has come early. Maybe he isn’t quite ready. But he will get used to it soon enough.
‘It’s a different position for me, a position I’m not really use to,’ he said after taking Melbourne by storm. ‘It has sort of come out of nowhere.’
Well, not quite Alex. We said you were a superstar-in-the-making towards the end of last year.
Since then, De Minaur has won the Sydney International by winning two matches in one day.
There has been no time to rest, or even take a breath.
Straight across to Melbourne for the Australian Open, and more heroics. The latest of which was an epic five-setter against Henri Laaksonen.
Alex should have put this one to bed earlier, but let his Swiss opponent back into the match. For the crowd, there was the added bonus of more entertainment.
By the time the new Aussie favourite won 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 6-3, he had the fans eating out of his hand.
One problem. Next up for the young sensation is Rafael Nadal. And unlike Alex, Rafa is fresh after a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over another Aussie, Matthew Ebden.
Let’s be honest, Nadal is likely to blow De Minaur off the court this time.
He has too much experience and too much power, you suspect.
But watch things change over the next couple of years.
And in five years’ time, Alex de Minaur will be a top-five player and hugely loved the world over.
For now he is adjusting to his stardom and enjoying the ride. How will he handle Nadal?
‘It’s an incredible draw for me and I’m going to give it 150 per cent,’ he promised.
Make no mistake, it will be a shock if De Minaur even takes a set off Rafa. But he will learn so much from the experience.
Watch for his attitude. See how his head never drops, whatever the outcome.
So what else has caught the eye in Melbourne? A very brave display from Dan Evans, who was 5-3 up in the opening tie-break against Roger Federer.
The Brit from Birmingham has had his share of problems off the field. But Evans has something special and gave Federer a hard time, even though he didn’t have a set to show for it when all was said and done.
What does it mean for Wimbledon 2019? Well, if Andy Murray chooses not to play on, and Kyle Edmund is hampered by injury, there is a Brit anti-hero in Evans, waiting to shake things up for the home crowd.
Let’s turn our attention to the women. And we can’t help but look ahead to what could be a sizzling showdown between Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova at the business end of the tournament.
Again, this was flagged up in the preview. Since then, Kvitova and Kerber have both looked more than capable of winning the entire tournament.
Can’t wait to see it all unfold, can you?