Alex De Minaur’s Australian Open campaign has ended with regrets as fifth seed Andrey Rublev was a class above during primetime on Rod Laver Arena last night.
Before a ball was hit, the Aussie led the head-to-head 3-2 against his opponent dating back to 2018 in what was expected to be an evenly contested battle from the baseline.
All of the talk pre-game was about both players attempting to break respective barriers, as both De Minaur and Rublev have failed to progress past the quarter-final stage of a major, with the latter appearing in nine without victory.
The Russian got a grip hold of proceedings in the early stages to take a 4-1 lead before De Minaur responded to take the following three games in a cat-and-mouse style match with hard-hitting rallies and plenty of court coverage.
Despite working hard to get back on level terms at 4-4, the Australian world No.10 couldn’t hold from a favourable 30-0 position to throw away the opener.
Zero from eight break chances were converted from both players combined in a set in which De Minaur demonstrated more of the the slice and drop shot variety that worked well in the earlier rounds.
In the tiebreak, De Minaur managed to somehow latch onto a drop shot to guide it around the net for a 3-1 lead, sending the crowd into absolute raptures to help him claim the second set.
It was much of the same in the third as the 24-year-old raced out to a 5-2 advantage before some signs of tension took over and allowed Rublev to win four of the next five games to send the match into another seven-point breaker. The world No.5 wasn’t rewarded for his mini-comeback, dropping the third set and giving himself a mountain to climb.
It was Rublev’s turn again to gain the upper hand with the break at 3-0, and unlike the first set, the 26-year-old didn’t let his momentum dip to send the final fourth round match of the tournament into a deciding set.
From there it was all one-way traffic when De Minaur struggled to keep up with the fast-paced returns that were being fired from his opponent’s end, as Rublev survived an epic to win 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-0 in four hours and 14 minutes.
De Minaur explained his disappointment and where the game was lost in the post-match press conference.
“It's a tough match to finish up my campaign here. Obviously had aspirations for more. My time here was cut short,” he said.
“Andrey deserved the win today. He played too good in the fourth and fifth sets. He kind of, in my eyes, just let go and started swinging freely, caught a little purple patch. It was too good in the end.”
Rublev advances to his tenth major quarter final (0-9) where he will face fourth seed Jannik Sinner.
On Margaret Court Arena, Sinner continued to showcase his brilliant form with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Karen Khachanov .
The Italian made just 54% of first serves but fended off nine of ten break-point opportunities to hold control of the encounter.
Sinner remains the only player in the men’s draw to have not dropped a set and is pleased to be in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second time.
“[I’m] obviously happy with the outcome of this match,” Sinner told the media.
“I felt like we both were hitting the ball really well from the back of the court. Every match is obviously different. It’s a pleasure to be here.”
On the women's side as the Rublev / De Minaur match got underway, ninth seed Barbora Krejcikova outlasted 16 year old Mirra Andreeva 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last eight where she will meet defending champion Sabalenka.
Earlier on John Cain Arena, 12th seed Taylor Fritz and 7th seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas took to the court to battle for the right to face Novak Djokovic in the quarter- finals.
Boasting a 3-1 head-to-head record against Fritz, Tsitsipas, the 2023 Australian Open finalist and three-time semi-finalist, was the favourite to take down the American who, despite his career-high ranking of world number 5, had never defeated a top 10 player at a Grand Slam.
Fritz, however, would not be denied in emerging the victor from a see-sawing three-hour contest 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 that was, in Tsitsipas’ words, “dominated by the serve”.
Speaking post-match, Tsitsipas, who is believed to be playing with at least a minor back issue, said he felt “at times there were certain gaps during the match where it was purely just serve and not much to it” which left him unable to “dictate” or
“control” the point and “threw [him] off a little bit”.
Conversely, Fritz stated he felt he was playing so well that he likened it to an out-of-body body experience.
“Yeah, I’m really happy. I think start to finish I played really well” Fritz said.
“The last three games of the match I really, really turned it on, almost like was in a trance and everything. Just felt good. I felt like I knew exactly what shot to hit, the right decision to make on every ball.”
While the notion of a trance may appear ridiculous, the mere fact Fritz won 86% of points behind his first serve and hit 50 winners and only 19 unforced errors in fact suggests the Californian native might be onto something.
Having failed to defend his runner-up performance from last year, Tsitsipas will drop to at least world No.10 after this tournament.
For his success, Fritz will return to the top 10 in the rankings and has a date with Novak Djokovic in his house of pain, Rod Laver Arena, on Tuesday. He has not beaten Djokovic in eight attempts.