Overtime thrillers, the catch of the year (twice) and a season obituary – this is what you came for.
21-year-old Alex de Minaur had his best grand slam campaign ever, reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in a major tournament.
He finally ran into the ultimate hurdle in the US Open when he had to face number two seed Dominic Thiem. His road to the quarter-finals saw him overcome some quality opposition in Richard Gasquet, Karen Khachanov and Vasek Pospisil.
In a clear contrast of play styles, Thiem overpowered de Minaur to win in straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Thiem was essentially a heavyweight battling a welterweight in de Minaur. While Thiem was the aggressor, the Aussie did everything he could to pursue every shot to stay in the rally.
Even when de Minaur was on serve, Thiem returned everything with heavy force and de Minaur only won 49 per cent of his first-serve points. Additionally, Thiem had a whopping 43 winners compared to de Minaur’s 17.
The turning point in the match came in the second set when de Minaur failed to break Thiem’s serve with three break points at 0-40. At the time they were tied 2-2 and breaking Thiem would’ve given the Aussie a huge lift both physically and psychologically.
After Thiem managed to save the breakpoints, he won six games straight to hold a dominant lead overlapping into the third set. There was a mini-rally in the third set from de Minaur but it was futile as Thiem was focused until the very end.
When de Minaur had burst onto the professional scene a few years back, he was an extremely skinny kid. But what he lacked in size and power he made up for in speed and agility. But that also came with resilience, fight and effort.
He has continued to maintain those elements while improving to become a rising star.
After the game, a weary and tired de Minaur said, “I would’ve loved to put more of a fight. He (Thiem) played at a high level and I was unable to lift mine up to meet his.”
Most 21-year-olds would genuinely be satisfied to reach the quarter-finals of any major grand slam. However, the young Aussie currently ranked 28th in the world is determined to put in the hard work to achieve bigger things.
“Hopefully with years to come, I’ll get bigger and stronger and grow into my body a little bit more. But I don’t want to wait for those couple years, I want to be making strides as soon as I can,” de Minaur said.
Alex de Minaur will now be shifting his focus onto the French Open. There is no doubt that his mindset and attitude is in the right place. Being mentored by one of the Australian greats in Lleyton Hewitt, de Minaur is poised to become one of Australia’s top tennis players for the next decade.
Most recently, Nick Kyrgios had the highest ranking for an Australian tennis player back in 2016 ranked as the world number 13. But with the work ethic mixed with the talent and heart that Alex de Minaur possesses, we may be seeing a future top-ten player develop right before our eyes.