De Minaur Chalks Up Loss To ‘Rafa Being Rafa’
#NextGenATP Alex de Minaur has enjoyed an astronomic rise over the past year. At the start of 2018, he was No. 208 in the ATP Rankings. Now, the 19-year-old Aussie is inside the Top 30 and earned his maiden ATP Tour title last week in Sydney. The speedy teenager reached the third round of the Australian Open for the first time, thrilling his home crowd.
But De Minaur was unable to battle his way past 2009 champion Rafael Nadal on Friday. The second seed eliminated the Aussie in straight sets. But as De Minaur said, while he always is looking to improve, there was not a lot he could have done against Nadal in their clash.
“It was just about match-ups today,” De Minaur said. “Rafa being Rafa.”
What should be no surprise is that it took Nadal six match points to close out the Aussie. De Minaur, who is the second-youngest player in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings, has already earned a reputation as one of the grittiest players on the ATP Tour.
“I wish I could play like that the whole match. I don't know. I just have it in my head to fight until the end, fight for every point. I just wanted to give myself a chance,” De Minaur said of saving five match points in Nadal’s final service game. “I thought I did everything I could. I just wasn't able to win the deuce points. I had to fight and fight and try to give myself that opportunity, but it just didn't come.”
De Minaur embraced the atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena, the major’s main stadium. Some may be affected by nerves on such a stage, but that moment, playing against a legend of the sport in front of home fans, is what De Minaur has been waiting for his whole life.
“Probably the things you dream of. This is why you play the sport. My first time playing on Rod Laver [Arena]. I was able to share the court with someone like Rafa. That's a pretty surreal experience once you sit down and think about it,” De Minaur said. “Just the crowd support that I've had pretty much the whole way has been insane. At the later stages of that match, it was quite deafening. It was pretty cool. Gave me goosebumps. I'll do everything in my power to keep improving, and hopefully get many more chances to play on that court.”
The stats may show that the win was somewhat straightforward for Nadal, winning 29 more points than De Minaur, not getting broken in the match, and so on. But De Minaur found positives to take away from his effort, which he could carry with him moving forward.
“I got better as the match went on. I've had a great Aussie summer. I'm really proud of the effort I put in. I played some great tennis. Obviously I'm a little bit disappointed that I wasn't able to perform a little bit better. But that's just what Rafa does to you,” De Minaur said. “You've got to go out there and pretty much redline. You've got to be able to go out there and perform your gameplan and execute. I felt like I wasn't able to do that today. But I still got better as the match went on. I fought until the end.
“There were many games, especially on my service games, that had a lot of game points. I ended up getting broken. If I could have just held on a little bit more with my serve, applied a bit more pressure early on in the sets, then maybe I could have got in a little bit more chances on his serve. But, geez, he served well.”
De Minaur will now take the momentum of his strong start to the year — the Aussie is 9-2 in 2018 — and try to build on it. He will not keep his head down, but continue working on his game.
“I've got to go back and get better. I have plenty of areas to work on and improve. Just can't wait to get out there on court and improve these little aspects,” De Minaur said. “Hopefully next time around I can have a bigger crack.”