Speed Demon: Behind De Minaur's Greatest Strength
Alex de Minaur has taken the ATP World Tour by storm in 2018, climbing from No. 208 in the ATP Rankings to his current standing of No. 31. The results speak for themselves — finals in Sydney and Washington, D.C., semi-finals in Brisbane and Shenzhen, and the Aussie’s maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Nottingham.
But how has De Minaur risen, and done so, this quickly? One thing is certain, and that is that the 19-year-old is already one of the fastest players on the ATP World Tour. If you would’ve told De Minaur that even a few years back, he never would have believed it.
“Not at all. Yeah, growing up in the juniors, it sort of probably just clicked maybe three, four years ago. Before that, I was clumsy. I had big feet. I moved really bad on court, and I sort of had to use instincts to move around because I wasn't the biggest guy, and I wasn't the strongest guy, and I didn't move well,” De Minaur said. “I had to develop a little bit of a core craft and find different ways to win matches. And I think all of that has helped me develop and be the player that I am now.”
Every player has their strengths and weaknesses. For some, it’s their forehand. For others, it might be their serve. But for De Minaur, his weapon is clear.
“I would probably have to say my speed,” De Minaur said. “That’s something that I really can’t live without because the only thing I do these days is run side to side and it’s something I’ve got to work on. It would be nice to get a little bigger and stronger so I don’t have to do as much running, but those are things I hope to work on in the preseason and get better.”
Taylor Fritz, another Next Gen ATP Finals contender, who lost to the Aussie on Thursday, said that he wishes he could borrow some of De Minaur’s footwork.
“I need to work on getting faster and moving better, so unlike Alex I can do more movement,” Fritz joked.
“Do you want to trade off? Let’s have a trade-off!” De Minaur responded, asking for Fritz’s height and power.
And while De Minaur said that he has just improved his speed recently, coach Adolfo Gutierrez says that he doesn’t necessarily agree with his charge’s opinion.
“Who knows him knows that he was very fast, always, since he was young,” Gutierrez said. “It is true that his feet were a little bigger, flat feet, something that was quite funny, actually, but he has always been very fast and very agile. In fact as a child he played at Hércules (football team) and even then he was quick and coordinated.”
Whether the Aussie No. 1’s speed has come along this year or not, his game certainly has, and it’s made a significant impression on his opponents. While De Minaur and Jaume Munar had never met in a FedEx ATP Head2Head match before Friday at the Next Gen ATP Finals, Munar beat De Minaur in their two previous professional matches, winning both times in straight sets.
But in the Milan semi-finals, De Minaur was all over the court, scratching and clawing passing shots from unfavourable positions past the Spaniard.
“He’s always running,” Munar said. “He’s getting impossible balls I think, [he hit] many passing shots today in important moments and all the credit to him. I think he’s a great player.”
De Minaur has sprinted and slid around Next Gen Arena all week, going undefeated in round-robin play and then beating Munar to give himself an opportunity to play for the prestigious title at the Fiera Milano against top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. And to nobody’s surprise, the Greek was quick to explain what he feels will test him the most with De Minaur’s game.
“He's very quick,” Tsitsipas said. “That's his biggest weapon, his speed on the court.”
And the ‘Speed Demon’ will try to use that weapon once more in his final match of the season to run his way to the Next Gen ATP Finals title and with it, the $407,000 that goes to an undefeated champion.