De Minaur Downs Home Favourite Caruana

Australian notches first victory in Milan after 55 minutes

Alex de Minaur made a strong opening statement in the last match of Tuesday’s opening day of play at the Next Gen ATP Finals. The Aussie moved past Italian wild card Liam Caruana 4-1, 4-1, 4-2 in 55 minutes.

De Minaur has now won 25 tour-level matches in 2018, which is impressive considering he began the year with just two. The second seed in Milan saved both break points he faced against Caruana, and won 51 per cent of return points to move to 1-0 in Group B play.

“It was fun. The whole week I was really looking forward to playing with this new format and it was great,” De Minaur said. “I actually didn’t feel too much of a difference. I enjoyed every second out there. The atmosphere was great and I couldn’t think of a better way to start.”

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In the match prior, Frances Tiafoe was up two quick sets against Hubert Hurkacz before being pushed in a tight four-setter. But De Minaur, who reached the championship match in Sydney and Washington, D.C., earlier this season, took care of business, finishing off the lone straight-sets victory of the day.

The 19-year-old’s opponent, Caruana, carried plenty of momentum into Tuesday evening, after winning three matches in three days last week against fellow Italian 21-and-under players. But De Minaur proved too solid from the back of the court.

De Minaur will face Andrey Rublev on Wednesday and if he defeats the Russian, who he beat in the Citi Open semi-finals, in three or four sets, the Aussie will guarantee his spot in the last four in Milan. Caruana will look to join the winners’ column in a match against longtime friend Taylor Fritz.