DE­MON’S WEAPON

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT - JAY CLARK

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.

Pic­ture: QUINN ROONEY/GETTY IM­AGES

STRAIGHT SETS: Alex de Min­aur cel­e­brates dur­ing his first-round match against Pe­dro Sousa of Por­tu­gal yes­ter­day.

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