Photograph: Getty Images
Australia’s No. 1 men’s player Alex de Minaur is through to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the very first time after defeating Spaniard Pablo Andujar in straight sets.
“Another very special feeling. And look, it's one of those moments you kind of dream of, play night match, 7:00 p.m. prime time on Rod Laver Arena on your own merits, and have the legend Rod himself watching you play,” de Minaur said in his post-match press conference.
“So it's definitely a great moment to savor for many years to come. And of course to go out there and play such a good match and win on this occasion, it's a great feeling.”
The 32nd seed put in a clinical performance on Rod Laver Arena, defeating the Spanish veteran 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and seven minutes.
“Tactics going in was to keep playing my game and, you know, wait for the right ball to be aggressive. I felt like maybe I didn't hit that aggressive ball too well, didn't find too many chances to be aggressive, so I had to kind of bring a little bit of variety, make sure the rallies were longer, and really just try to make him move as much as I could on court,” de Minaur said.
”I thought I used my slice well, my backhand line, and basically all of that just to set up, you know, the sure forehand.”
The win is a landmark one for de Minaur as he advances to the second week of his home slam for the first time in his career. The Aussie seems to be back in top form after enduring a tough finish to 2021 following a bout of COVID-19 which stopped him from competing at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
De Minaur’s game was solid all over tonight as he mixed his remarkable defensive capabilities with an offensive assault that resulted in 34 winners and eight aces.
The defensive pressure he applied by chasing down every ball led to 41 unforced errors from the Spaniard who had to force the issue to win a point.
It’s evident when watching de Minaur this year that the Aussie has been able to generate significant power on his ground strokes - which is something he worked on in the off season.
“That’s one of the things we've obviously worked on. And, hey, whenever the season ends, you sit down with your team and, you know, you kind of talk things through, see what areas you can improve on and what areas we need to improve on to kind of take it to the next level, and that was definitely one,” de Minaur said.
”To take it to these top guys, you know, you've got to be aggressive and really take it to them. You can't just sit back and let them bully you around. That was a focus, to really kind of step that up and just have aggressive mindset. You know, I'm happy I've been able to start the year playing that way, and playing some great tennis and getting the results thanks to that. Now it's all about just keep building on that.”
”Everyone nowadays hits the ball so hard, so you kind of have to improve with the rest of them.”
Looking forward, de Minaur is due to run into Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner in the next round. Sinner has been in terrific form in 2021, only dropping one set for the year against Taro Daniel in the third round of the Australian Open.
The Aussie has faced Sinner twice in their short careers, with the Italian claiming both encounters on indoor hard courts. One of those matches was when Sinner announced himself to the world by winning the ATP Next Gen Finals as a wildcard.
“I hit with Jannik in Sydney. I've hit with him a lot. I've played him. I know what's coming: Immense firepower. I'm going to have to be ready to, as we have just talked about, not get bullied around the court and really take it to him,” de Minaur said.