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Alex De Minaur better equipped in Paris return

Alex De Minaur of Australia plays a forehand shot in his Mens Final match against Andreas Seppi of Italy during day seven of the 2019 Sydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on January 12, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
26th September, 2020
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One of six Australians in action on Sunday, Alex de Minaur is confident he can match 2018 French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato on the Paris clay.

Reaching new grand slam heights has fuelled Alex de Minaur’s optimism as he returns mentally and physically stronger for another crack on the Paris clay.

The top-ranked Australian male, fresh off a US Open quarter-final run, will lead the charge on the opening day of French Open action on Sunday night (AEST) against the dangerous Marco Cecchinato.

The Italian beat Novak Djokovic on the way to the semi-finals at Roland Garros two year ago, but was forced to qualify this year before landing a date with the 25th seed.

The 21-year-old De Minaur has won just once in three visits to Paris and will start as the outsider given the Italian’s 2018 feats.

Comprehensively out-muscled by current doubles partner Pablo Carreno Busta in last year’s second round, de Minaur feels like he’s returned a different man.

“I’m definitely bigger and stronger; I’m proud of where my body’s at right now, it’s probably the best it’s ever been,” he told AAP.

“It was a great feeling to reach that milestone (at the US Open) and I’ve reset now, feeling fresh and ready for five set matches, however long it takes.”

De Minaur didn’t feel the need to pick the brains of US Open semi-finalist and noted clay-courter Carreno Busta during their time on the doubles court.

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“I know I’ve got the game to play well on clay; it’s more about me believing it mentally,” he said.

“A loss dampens the confidence, but a few wins and it takes over and you’re on a roll.

“That’s all I need to start believing it more and more, then it’ll feel like home.

“I’m ready (for Cecchinato); it’ll be tough, but I’m looking forward to seeing where I am, testing myself out and having a battle out there.”

De Minaur is one of six out of the 11 Australians in action on Sunday in front of minimal crowds because of coronavirus fears.

Jordan Thompson, who reached the final 16 in New York and the third round in Paris last year, has a prime opportunity again when he faces Radu Albot, who is winless from seven matches this year.

And all four Australian women in the draw will play on Sunday, Ajla Tomljanovic to face Greek 21st seed Maria Sakkari, while Astra Sharma plays Russian Anna Blinkova.

The fit-again Daria Gavrilova plays 24th seed Dayana Yastremska and Maddison Inglis will battle 27th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.

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Marc Polmans, John Millman, Alexei Popyrin, James Duckworth and Sydney qualifier Aleksandar Vukic will all be in first-round action from Monday.

Aussies in action on Day 1
25-Alex de Minaur vs Marco Cecchinato (ITA)

Jordan Thompson vs Radu Albot (MDA)

Ajla Tomljanovic vs 20-Maria Sakkari (GRE)

Daria Gavrilova vs 24-Dayana Yastremska (UKR)

Maddison Inglis vs 27-Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS)

Astra Sharma vs Anna Blinkova (RUS)

© AAP