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DEMON DODGES MILOS MISSILE AS JASIKA FALLS SHORT AGAINST HURKACZ



Home hope and tenth seed Alex de Minaur has progressed to the second round of the Australian Open after former world number 3 Canadian Milos Raonic retired mid-way through the third set with what appeared to be a hip complaint as the Demon advanced 6-7(6), 6-3, 2-0 (ret).  

 

Despite a thrilling first hour where Raonic took the first set in a gripping tie-breaker, the match developed into an anti-climax for the Melbourne crowd as Raonic’s early medical timeout signaled the start of the end for the 6’5” former Wimbledon finalist.   

 

de Minaur, for his part, while happy to take the win, confessed post-match “It’s not the way you want to go through to the next round” and that he hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary from Raonic in the early stages of their encounter.

 

“I started [to notice something] maybe midway through the second to notice a little bit him losing a bit of speed on his serve, eventually making it a little bit easier for me to kind of expose his movement, get back into the rallies.”

 

Ever humble, the Australian further declared it remains a “pretty special” and “surreal experience” to play the “primetime slot on RLA” as his years of hard work begins to pay off.

 

“To see the crowd there all supporting me from the very first ball until the last, it does give me a lot of belief. It gives me a lot of confidence. It kind of shows that all the hard work I've been putting, it's reaping its rewards.”

 

Sporting a navy-coloured and yacht club-inspired Lululemon outfit, Raonic, despite playing only four tournaments in 2023 and having dealt with a plethora of injuries in recent years, came to play on Rod Laver Arena and took it right up to the Demon early. 

 

While focused on “staying calm” during the ups and downs that five-set tennis provides, de Minaur insisted there were “no real nerves” playing on Rod Laver Arena and instead revealed he was more nervous with the “unpredictability” of playing the “lottery” that is Milos Raonic.

 

Once underway, and adopting contrasting styles, both players held serve comfortably throughout the first set to force the breaker. 

 

Raonic, who took a medical timeout after holding serve to lead 5-4, was relying heavily on his serve and forehand combination to try to spread the Australian from side to side on the baseline, while de Minaur was seeking to outlast the Canadian by extending the rallies and using Raonic’s forehand side to expose the weaker backhand.

 

A window opened for de Minaur in the tiebreaker serving at 5-4 after Raonic dragged an inside-in forehand into the net.  However, a double fault let Raonic right back into proceedings.  Moments later, the set was his. 

 

The second set was a different spectacle.  

 

Unsurprisingly, given his lack of matches, Raonic’s service percentage fell and unforced errors crept in from the back of the court as his movement ever so slowly began to drop away.  de Minaur, who was not by any stretch playing the tennis that saw him take down the likes of Djokovic, Fritz, and Zverev in the United Cup, started getting more opportunities on return and eventually broke in the sixth game of the set with an offensive lob Lleyton Hewitt would be proud of. 

 

While not without challenge, de Minaur shut the door on the second set taking it 6-3, and broke Raonic in the first game of the third set before Raonic retired part way through his next service game.

 

Facing Italian Matteo Arnaldi in the second round, de Minaur made no secret of his desire to exact revenge on the Italian at the centre of Australia’s Davis Cup downfall in November.

 

“It's no secret Davis Cup is a huge priority for me” de Minar started.  “It's been shattering the last couple of years just to get so close to the Holy Grail and just barely miss out.

 

“Yeah, I mean, I do associate Matteo as the guy that beat us in the Davis Cup Final. I'll do my best to hopefully get some revenge. He's a quality opponent. I'll be ready for it hopefully.”

 

And while de Minaur’s section of the draw has opened up.  The Spanish-based New South Welshman won’t be looking too far ahead. 

 

“I don't look at the draw. I don't like it. I think it's a way of getting ahead of yourself. There's no moment like the present” he smiled.

 

“For me the only thing I'm really focused about is just my next-round opponent.”

 

Earlier on John Cain Arena, Melbournian and Kooyong Foundation product Omar Jasika followed Daria Saville onto court in making his return to main draw grand slam tennis for the first time since 2017.

 

Having successfully navigated the qualifying draw, despite requiring a wildcard merely to enter, Jasika made life uncomfortable for Polish 9th seed Hubert Hurkacz with his crafty game before ultimately being outclassed 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-2 in front of a boisterous home crowd. 

 

Despite the loss, the left-handed 2014 US Open juniors champion will rise from 343 to approximately 287 in the rankings once released after the Australian Open. 

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