De Min­aur, Barty ready to lead home charge in Mel­bourne

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT -

An ice bath, a mas­sage and a pri­vate jet ride from Syd­ney to Mel­bourne after win­ning his first ATP ti­tle has re­freshed Alex de Min­aur enough for him to state he is ready to lead the host na­tion’s hopes for the men’s ti­tle at the Aus­tralian Open.

The 19-year-old wore down Ital­ian vet­eran An­dreas Seppi 7-5, 7-6 (5) to win the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional late on Satur­day — his sec­ond match in five hours.

He then had to rush to Mel­bourne yes­ter­day on a pri­vate jet — “a small one” — in or­der to fi­nalise his prepa­ra­tions for his first round clash with Por­tu­gal’s Pe­dro Sousa at the sea­son open­ing Grand Slam to­day.

The teenager had crit­i­cised Aus­tralian Open or­gan­is­ers on Satur­day for the sched­ul­ing after de­feat­ing French­man Gilles Si­mon in the semi-fi­nals, but was in a more con­cil­ia­tory mood yes­ter­day.

“I’ve done ev­ery­thing to re­cover. Hopped in the ice bath, had a mas­sage. I’m ready to go... the body is feel­ing good,” De Min­aur, who is the 27th seed and high­est-ranked Aus­tralian in the men’s sin­gles, told re­porters.

“It’s (the Syd­ney ti­tle) given me a lot of con­fi­dence. To be able to do it at my home in front of my friends and fam­ily, it’s al­ways that much more spe­cial,” he said.

“Com­ing in, it’s given me a lot of con­fi­dence. Hope­fully I can just ride that mo­men­tum and keep play­ing some great ten­nis here in Mel­bourne.”

De Min­aur is one of 12 Aus­tralians in the men’s sin­gles and seek­ing to be­come the first lo­cal to win the ti­tle since Mark Ed­mond­son in 1976.

The last Aus­tralian man to make the men’s sin­gles fi­nal was Lley­ton Hewitt, who lost to Marat Safin in 2005, but De Min­aur felt there was no added pres­sure on him to end the long drought.

“I think once you start think­ing in dif­fer­ent ways to deal with these sit­u­a­tions, that’s the wrong thing to do,” he said.

“I’m just do­ing the same things that I was do­ing two years ago, three years ago. Ev­ery match, just mak­ing sure I go out there, com­pete, just give it my all.

“That’s pretty much all I can ask from my­self.”

Barty also had to make a hur­ried dash to Mel­bourne after she lost the Syd­ney fi­nal to Pe­tra Kvi­tova in a third-set tie-break and is also sched­uled to play to­day evening against Thai­land’s Luk­sika Kumkhum on Mar­garet Court Arena.

The world num­ber 15 will also bear the bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion from a home crowd who are wait­ing to end a sim­i­larly-long drought in the women’s draw. The last lo­cal cham­pion was Chris O’Neil in 1978.

Last year Barty won two WTA ti­tles, reached the fourth round at the US Open and ear­lier this week beat world num­ber one Si­mona Halep in Syd­ney.

“You know, I’m ex­cited to get out there and try and play my best ten­nis for my­self, my team and the Aus­tralian pub­lic, but there is cer­tainly no ex­tra pres­sure from them,” Barty said on Satur­day.

“I think, if any­thing, it’s em­brac­ing the sup­port that you do get.

“I’m a dif­fer­ent player than I was 12 months ago. I feel like I’m a much bet­ter player. I’m a more com­plete player... I feel like I’m play­ing great ten­nis.”

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