A great opportunity beckons for Aussie top hope Alex De Minaur at Roland Garros.
For a player who spent the majority of his junior years growing up and practising on the clay courts in Spain, Alex De Minaur’s record on the surface isn’t as convincing as you may think. Before arriving in Paris, the 24-year-old had played 61 matches across both the ATP and challenger events on the red dirt since 2017, holding a win-loss record of 28-33 (45.9%) and without a title to his name. Considering his game style is based around lightning-quick speed, long rallies, and less power compared to the rest of the tour, many would expect the Aussie to flourish in the clay conditions. Instead, previous results suggest otherwise which happen to include four first-round exits at Roland-Garros as the second round remains his personal best. Alex will be hoping to go one better in 2023 after claiming a four-set victory over Ilay Ivashka in two hours and 45 minutes. Throughout the match, there were a couple of shaky moments, especially when Ivashka closed out the second set and took advantage of some nervy unforced errors made by the number one ranked Australian. Nonetheless, the demon came out unscathed and showed some positive signs, most notably on his return game where he created 21 break-point chances and converted 10 where he was successful in moving his opponent around the court with so much versatility. That victory now sets up De Minaur with a very favourable draw in the bottom half of the men’s section, as world number 2 Daniil Medvedev suffered a shock opening-round defeat at the hands of Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild. Throughout Medvedev’s entire career, it can safely be said that the clay has never treated him well. However, the former US Open champion was in the midst of catching some unexpected from as of late, reaching the quarter-finals of Monte-Carlo as well as taking home the trophy in Rome just over a week ago. All of a sudden, De Minaur has a massive look-in at a potential grand slam quarter-final where he will be projected to meet Italian eighth seed, Jannik Sinner. Can Australia’s best hope grasp the opportunity with both hands and make a deep run at a major? If there’s one thing you can’t criticise De Minaur for, it’s his belief, work rate, and never say die attitude. After the win on court six, Alex explained how his confidence is growing with each experience. “I’m not in the same place I was three or four years ago, where I would come here and kind of just hope for a good draw because I knew it was going to be tough. “Now I feel like I can play well and I can take it to anyone who is in front of me,” De Minaur said. Now, the 18th seed is blessed with a kind draw. Up next, the Aussie will face unseeded Argentine Tomás Martín Etcheverry (49 in the world) before potentially facing seeds Borna Ćorić (15) and Yoshihito Nishioka (27) to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final against Sinner. Nishioka is facing another Aussie Max Purcell tonight in the 2nd round. If both went on a run, maybe a 4th round all Australian match up. By no means will those matches prove to be easy or straightforward, also due to his poor results on clay as touched upon. Etcheverry is not to be taken lightly, reaching three finals so far this season with clay undoubtedly his strength. Then there’s Ćorić (despite recent injuries) and Nishioka or Purcell who are very dangerous opponents. Who knows, maybe Seyboth Wild could go on an unprecedented run as the lowest ranked off that group Still, if De Minaur saw that potential pathway on paper, he would be the first to sign it. From a mental point of view, he’s struggled to capitalise on some great chances in the past, with examples such as surrendering a two-set to-love lead against Cristian Garin in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year, letting slip a two-set lead over the-then seventh seed Marin Čilić at the third round of the 2018 US Open, as well as countless matches during grand slams that ended in unexpected and disappointing losses. With all that said, this seems like a more mature version of Alex. Constant exposure to pressure-type scenarios has transpired as a blessing due to his willingness to learn and adapt whenever possible. That attitude, desire, and talent are clearly there for the tennis world to recognise and appreciate. Four fourth-round appearances along with a quarter-final on the grand slam stage offer proof that the Sydney-born gem is knocking on the door.
The time is now for Alex De Minaur to begin the next step in his career and send out a statement of intent. The ball is firmly in his court.