'Stuck in two minds', defending champ De Minaur returns to Acapulco final

Australian will play Ruud for the trophy
March 02, 2024
Alex de Minaur is trying to become the first back-to-back Acapulco champion since David Ferrer. By ATP Staff

Alex de Minaur is one win from successfully defending his Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC title.

The Australian led rising Briton Jack Draper 6-3, 2-6, 4-0 when the lefty retired from their semi-final due to an undisclosed ailment. De Minaur will play sixth seed Casper Ruud Saturday evening for the trophy.

“I think those are the types of situations which are the hardest to control as a player, because you're stuck in two minds,” De Minaur said. “One mind is, alright, you can see your opponent hurting. So let's just try and put the ball in the court and make him just miss.

“What you really have to do is play the same style of tennis that you were that got you to that stage. So it's extremely hard to focus in those situations, and often these are the matches that can complicate themselves.”

In the second set, the consistently steady De Minaur began to misfire as Draper, who lost just 11 games in three matches to reach the semi-finals, charged towards a decider behind his big lefty game.

But midway through the set, the Briton received a visit from the ATP physiotherapist and tournament doctor. Although he was able to finish off the set, his movement and intensity was visibly off early in the third set.

De Minaur took full advantage and hit a drop shot from inside the service line to break immediately. With that momentum, he seized another break and Draper shook hands with his opponent. 

“It's never easy. And look, I think at the end of the day, it's all about what kind of stage in the match it is. So that's why it's so important to try and get your nose ahead even in that third set,” De Minaur said. “Even though I dropped that second set, I knew he was hurting from then and I just told myself to bring up the intensity, try and get a head start in the third set and make it a little bit harder for him.

“But honestly, I wish him a speedy recovery. He's a hell of a player, a hell of a talent and I hope it's nothing too serious.”

The third seed De Minaur , who now leads his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Draper 3-0, is the first player since David Ferrer (2012-13) to make the Acapulco final in consecutive years. The Spaniard won three consecutive editions of the event from 2010-12.

His opponent in the final, Ruud, battled from down a break in the third set to beat second seed Holger Rune 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and 24 minutes.

Rune had seemed to take control with his aggressive baseline game. But the Dane began to suffer from cramp and Ruud took full advantage, locking down his own game and making the match even more physical.

“It was a tough start. Holger just came out firing bullets from the forehand, from the backhand and I had not too much time to play my game,” Ruud said. “I was frustrated at times, especially at the end of the first set, beginning of the second. I didn't really feel like I got to play any points how I wanted to, so there was some frustration towards myself, towards my box, because I didn't feel like we were doing the right thing.

“But luckily with one break in the second, it turned around a bit and in the third set it got a little physical. I think maybe Holger seemed like he was struggling a little bit and started firing even more and a couple of games it went in and he broke me, which is frustrating.”

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Ruud, the former No. 2 in the PIF ATP Rankings, lost serve twice in the third set, but was able to increasingly find his way into Rune’s service games. The Norwegian won 53 per cent of his first-serve return points in the decider according to Infosys ATP Stats.

“You kind of know that [you need to] try to get a lot of balls back, make him run, make him fight for every point and luckily I was able to,” Ruud said. “Some unforced errors crept up on him and I served really well in the last game to close it out.”

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