HOT START FOR NEW DARLING
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.
De Minaur was initially upset about being scheduled to play on day one, rather than benefit from an extra day’s rest, but the workhorse baseliner looked fresh as he triumphed 6-4 7-5 6-4.
The Sydneysider appeared to handle the sweltering 34C heat much better than Sousa, dispatching him in less than two hours.
The country’s top-ranked men’s player and No.27 seed is on a crash course to play No.2 seed Rafael Nadal in the third round on Friday if he can win again tomorrow.
“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 in 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 followed up with a backhand smash winner.
After the match De Minaur paid tribute to fitness coach Tom Couch, the son of late Brownlow Medallist Paul Couch, for helping him prepare for the tournament.
“I’m very proud of the work we put in 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.”
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 late in the second set.
The bullet put him 30-0 up at 5-5 and helped the tenacious teen clinch the second set as Sousa’s game soon began to fray with a series of loose shots.
Ranked 103, Sousa never seriously threatened to win the match in his first Grand Slam appearance.
In contrast, De Minaur was tight on serve, dropping only one service game for the match.
POWER PLAY: Alex de Minaur launches a powerful return serve during his three-set win over Portugal’s Pedro Sousa on day one of the Australian Open; De Minaur walks his way past fans at the end of play; Sousa hitting a forearm early in the match.