It’s not been an easy couple of months for Alex de Minaur as he’s suffered a series of early defeats in tournaments – but the Australian No.1 has given himself the perfect morale booster with a back-from-the-brink win in his opening match at the Madrid Open.
De Minaur reckoned he was “very proud” of the way he had fought back in Sunday’s clay court clash, rallying from a set down to beat Spain’s Jaume Munar 4-6 7-5 6-1 after two hours and 22 minutes.
The Sydneysider had been coming off a dispiriting run of five defeats in his last six matches but even when he’s been struggling for form, there’s never been much wrong with his big heart.
Against world No.88 Munar, he was down by a set and the Spaniard needed just a couple of service holds to knock him out at the first hurdle.
Yet the world No.25 hung in, went on the offensive and started to take the racquet out of Munar’s hands, eventually blasting 42 winners as the Spaniard lost his way – and his cool – as he began chuntering about the state of the court.
“This is one of those wins that really helps your morale, helps build a lot of confidence,” De Minaur told Tennis Channel afterwards.
“It was about an hour-and-a-half of me not being too comfortable out there, not playing my best tennis knowing I could bring a higher level, but just not executing.
“I’m just very proud how I hung in there. I just kept going, kept trying to stay positive and eventually kept putting myself in a position to break.
“It finally went my way and I was able to play some much better tennis and tennis that I wanted to play. Very happy.”
So he should be. This was only ‘Demon’s’ fourth-ever win on clay at tour-level and, after one of those had come at the recent Barcelona Open, he can at least feel he’s at last making significant steps on the red stuff.
“I’m glad that today I told myself that whatever happened, I was going to stay positive the whole way. Even if it didn’t go my way, at least I wasn’t going to lose that match because of my attitude. It worked out today,” he said.
De Minaur was one of the first to book a place in the second round where he’ll meet either 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov or South African Lloyd Harris, who play on Monday.
But while John Millman is also in the first round, facing a tough opener against Miami winner Hubert Hurkacz, the pair have now been joined in the main draw by Alexei Popyrin, who became Australia’s’third man’ for the week by coming through qualifying on Sunday.
Popyrin, who’s reached a career-high world No.77, beat 18-year-old Frenchman Arthur Cazaux 7-5 7-6 (7-0) to book a difficult first round date with German Jan-Lennard Struff, who lost his first ATP tour final at the Munich Open on Sunday.