When Alex de Minaur considers his 2023 Australian summer in its entirety, the overall picture is far from bleak.
There was a first win over 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal at the inaugural United Cup in Sydney. Progress to the final 16 of his home Grand Slam for a second straight year.
And despite managing only five games in a first professional meeting with Novak Djokovic, De Minaur can take positives from that experience too.
“Like everything, it will add fuel to the fire,” said De Minaur, after his Monday night meeting with the nine-time Australian Open champion at Rod Laver Arena ended in just over two hours.
“I'll get my head down. I'll speak to my team and work on the things I need to work on to take the next step 'cause this is not where I want my goals to be, making fourth rounds of Slams.”
De Minaur had dropped only one set in earlier Australian Open wins over Hsu Yu-Hsiou, Adrian Mannarino and Benjamin Bonzi, becoming the only local player to progress to the tournament’s second week in singles at the 2023 event.
It adds to the 23-year-old’s ambition for bigger milestones – especially at his home Grand Slam.
“It's great, I'm happy, but I'm not content. I want more. I want to be in quarterfinals, be in the semifinals, really go deep,” insisted De Minaur. “I want to take the next step. That's what I want to do."
The Australian will target those ambitions with a hard-gained understanding of Djokovic’s level, which De Minaur believes could take him to a 10th title at Melbourne Park this weekend.
“Ultimately these are the matches I want to play. Maybe I'm being very hard on myself right now, but it did seem like I played a pretty faultless Novak today,” he reasoned.
“I could be wrong. I could then look at the match and see what I could have done better to expose him in any way, shape or form.
“The feeling I've got just walking off the court is that I played a pretty high-level Novak, which I feel like if he has that level, he will win another title here. That's my thoughts.”
Amid the disappointment of his fourth-round exit to the prolific champion, De Minaur also took consolation from the Serbian’s lofty position in the men’s game.
“I'll try not to take it too hard on myself because ultimately these guys, they've done a lot in the sport,” he added of Djokovic, who is targeting an all-time record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title this week.
“If they bring their best level, you're just slightly off your game, this is what happens.”
Disappointed, yet seeming far from dispirited, De Minaur is already considering how his overall gains from the Australian can provide a building block for the season ahead.
“There’s definitely positives out there. Now it's just about forgetting what happened out there today and moving on 'cause ultimately in this life you're going to have a couple of these performances, nights, days, where things just don't go your way,” he reflected.
“There's plenty of them. If you take it too hard, then it's going to linger for a while. You’ve got to get ready for the next week.”