Australia’s leading men’s hope Alex de Minaur paid tribute to fitness coach Tom Couch, the son of late Cats Brownlow medallist Paul Couch, after kickstarting his Australian Open campaign with a straight-sets win over Pedro Sousa.
AUSTRALIA’S newest tennis darling Alex de Minaur continued his hot form yesterday as he powered through to the second round of the Open.
The 19-year-old swept aside Portugal’s Pedro Sousa in three sets only days after winning his maiden ATP title in Sydney on Saturday.
After the match de Minaur paid tribute to fitness coach Tom Couch, the son of late Brownlow medallist and Gee- long Cats legend Paul Couch, for helping him prepare for the tournament.
“I’m very proud of the work we put in the off-season,” he said.
“Couchy took me through a very tough preseason to get me ready for this, especially the Australian summer.
“To be able to back up day after day, we did a lot of running, bike, boxing, which I’m not very good at, swimming, which I need my floaties for, but I’m glad it’s paying off.”
De Minaur was initially upset organisers scheduled him to play on Day 1, rather than benefit from an extra day’s rest, but the workhorse baseliner looked fresh as he triumphed 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
In particular, the Sydneysider appeared to handle the sweltering 34 degree heat much better than Sousa, dispatching him in less than two hours despite the quick turnaround.
The win means the country’s top-ranked men’s player and No. 27 seed is on a crash course to play No. 2 seed Ra- fael Nadal in the third round on Friday if he can win again tomorrow.
De Minaur, who joked about his fledgling driving skills post-match after only recently securing his license, said he was thrilled to continue his momentum yesterday.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” de Minaur said.
“I thought I had to be really tough today and to back it up from Sydney I was really proud to get it done in three sets.”
De Minaur spent more than three hours on court across two matches on Saturday and caught a private jet arriving into Melbourne at 3am on Sunday to maximise his recovery time.
The rising star showcased his signature running power in the first set as he made a desperate effort to chase down a precise drop shot, then followup with a backhand smash winner.
Renowned for his ability to stay in points and force errors from his opponents, de Minaur delivered a blinding backhand winner up the line at a crucial stage in late in the second set.
Top Aussie women’s hope Ash Barty continued the green and gold day to remember, routing Luksika Kumkhum last night.
Barty, the 15th seed, defeated her Thai opponent 6-2, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena to set up a date with China’s Yafan Wang tomorrow.
The 22-year-old was one of at least seven Australians to triumph at Melbourne Park yesterday, taking just 57 minutes to progress to the second round.
STRAIGHT SETS: Alex de Minaur celebrates during his first-round match against Pedro Sousa of Portugal yesterday.