No let down as De Minaur stands up

  • Matt Trollope

Alex de Minaur has carried his winning form from Sydney down to Melbourne Park, the 27th seed beating Portugal’s Pedro Sousa in straight sets on Monday to advance to the second round of Australian Open 2019.

De Minaur’s 6-4 7-5 6-4 win over Sousa sets up a second-round meeting with either Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen or Mirza Basic of Bosnia.

The Australian teenager on Saturday night won his first ATP title before a rapturous home crowd at the Sydney International.

Rather than suffering a let-down following that career breakthrough, De Minaur delivered a businesslike performance on Monday at Margaret Court Arena, befitting of the seeding he possesses for the first time at a major tournament.

De Minaur's fitness and mental focus has grown significantly since 2018

Twelve months ago, De Minaur’s workload in Brisbane and Sydney – where he reached the semifinals and finals – left him drained and physically compromised when he arrived at the Australian Open.

He fell in four sets to Tomas Berdych, losing the last two 6-0 6-1.

But in a sign of how far his has come both physically and mentally, De Minaur’s similarly successful lead-up to the year’s first Grand Slam event does not appear to have come at the same cost.

"I'm very proud of the work we put in in the off-season,” the 19-year-old said.

“’Couchy’ (fitness coach Tom Couch) took me through a very tough pre-season to get me ready, especially for this, for the Australian summer, to be able to back up day after day.

“We did a lot of running, bike, boxing – which I'm not very good at – swimming. I'm glad it's paying off and I'm really happy with my team and the work we've put in.”

De Minaur broke serve in the fifth game of the first set en route to a 4-2 lead.

In a sign of that improved physicality, De Minaur, in the 10th game, charged forward to retrieve a drop shot, before darting back to swat a backhand smash winner off the lofted reply.

The crowd roared, and three points later he’d claimed the first set.

The second set was a tighter affair, going game for game on serve. Yet Sousa, the world No.103, suddenly had a lapse, throwing in a double fault and a backhand error on consecutive points to drop serve.

De Minaur now led 6-5, and served out the second set in the next game.

He quickly went ahead 3-0 in the third, with all the momentum behind him.

The Australian survived a tough eighth game, pulling away at 30-30 and swatting an overhead winner to extend his lead to 5-3.

Two games later, he had sealed a spot in the second round.

Unforced errors
23 Alex de Minaur
41 Pedro Sousa

"I thought I had to be really tough today, and to back it up from Sydney, I'm proud that I was able to get it done in three sets,” he said.

"I'm very happy with my performance.”