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'Here to prove a lot of people wrong': Demon leads Aussies into United Cup semis as defeated Djokovic fumes at physio

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3rd January, 2024
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If we didn’t know it before, we do know – Alex de Minaur is an Australian Open dark horse.

The world No.12 and top-ranked male Australian produced his second irresistible performance in a row at the United Cup to give the host team’s quarter-final an ideal start – against none other than world No.1 and 10-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.

The 6-4, 6-4 victory – de Minaur’s first over a world No.1 – is arguably the finest of the 24-year old’s career, and ensures he will enter the first grand slam of the summer in a fortnight’s time as the nation’s great white hope.

Watch every Australian Open match ad-free, live & on demand with centre court in 4K Ultra-HD on the home of Grand Slam tennis, Stan Sport.

It’s also sweet revenge for the savage 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 beating de Minaur received at Djokovic’s hand in last year’s Australian Open fourth round.

Women’s singles teammate Ajla Tomljanovic then secured the tie for Australia with a straightforward 6-1, 6-1 win over Serbian fill-in and world no. 184 Natalija Stevanovic, to set up a semi-final date with Poland in Sydney on Saturday.

“It’s extremely special,” de Minaur said after securing the win.

“Novak is an unbelievable competitor, what he’s done for the sport is pretty special. So it feels surreal, it feels amazing. I’m happy to do it here in Perth and in Australia.”

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De Minaur’s win was based on a remarkable stat – only once for the entire match did he lose a point on his first serve.

With Djokovic discomfited by a wrist issue that saw him withdraw from Team Serbia’s mixed doubles tie against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, some new-look aggression and ingenuity from the pacy Australian left the Serbian maestro without an answer.

Djokovic’s frustration told after de Minaur broke for a 5-4 lead late in the first set; seeking a medical timeout, the world No.1 wasn’t pleased when informed by the trainer that he’d be unable to receive extra treatment due to the injury having been a pre-existing one.

“What are you talking about? It’s an injury you treated yesterday,” Djokovic complained.

“So the logic in that, if it continues getting worse the next day, you won’t treat it because it’s already been occurring yesterday?

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“I said it has improved before the match – when I started playing, and the more I’m playing, it’s getting worse. That’s what I told you.”

De Minaur’s dominance only wavered, similarly to his win over American Taylor Fritz, when it came time to close out the victory.

Giving up three match points from 40-0 up, including a double fault to spurn the third, threatened a miraculous Djokovic comeback; but the Australian would recover his composure and seal an emphatic win.

“It couldn’t get any worse!” de Minaur laughed when asked about his performance compared to in last year’s Australian Open horror show.

“Ultimately, when you go against Novak, you’ve just got to go out there, try and enjoy [it], back yourself and no matter what, just keep fighting till the end.

“Today was my day, I’m happy I was able to get the win. This one definitely means a lot.”

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“It [my drive] comes from a lot of people not believing in me. I’m just here to prove a lot of people wrong, try to keep on getting better. Ultimately, I’m never going to be the biggest or the strongest guy, so I’ve got to adapt, I’ve got to show that I’ve got variety in my game, and I’ve got different styles of playing tennis.

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“I’m glad I was able to bring this level today.”

The right wrist injury Djokovic carried into the match clearly affected him, with the 36-year-old committing a whopping 31 unforced errors and failing to create even a single break-point opportunity.

“I have enough time to get myself in the right shape for the Australian Open, and that’s what matters the most at this point,” Djokovic said.

“I think I’ll be okay, to be honest. 

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“I knew that I probably wasn’t going to be at my 100 per cent physically, emotionally, mentally, game-wise in the opening week of a season. 

“Neither did I expect that. Neither did I want that, to be honest. 

“It’s all a part of the build-up for the Australian Open. That’s where I want to perform at my best.

“So again, it’s never nice to lose a match, of course, but it’s not really going to stay with me much.”

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