HOT START FOR NEW DAR­LING

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JAY CLARK

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.

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