Alex De Minaur: How good could he be?

After another impressive start to the year from Australian teen Alex De Minaur, RealSport ask just how bright his future in the game could be.



(Photo Credit: MD111)

Australia’s Alex De Minaur, aged just 18, has been talked about less than some of his teenage contemporaries, such as Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe. He did not quite have the same sterling success as some of his contemporaries as a junior, losing to Denis Shapovalov in the junior Wimbledon final was his best result at the junior Slams. But he did reach world #2 as a junior and won the Australian Open junior doubles.

Born in Sydney and raised there until the age of five, De Minaur then relocated to Alicante in Spain, although he continues to represent Australia. De Minaur has spent much of his career playing on the Futures circuit in Spain, but recently has begun to have more success globally. In 2016 he made the final of a Challenger in Germany, and in 2017 had his most successful year by far on the main Tour. Awarded a wildcard into the Australian Open he took full advantage by reaching the second round.

He was also awarded wildcards at the French Open and the US Open, and although he lost first round at both he acquitted himself well. He also made two-further Challenger quarterfinals before winning the Australian Open wildcard playoff to secure his spot in the main draw in Melbourne for the second consecutive year. All in all, a positive 2018. But now having made headlines with his victory over former world #3 and Wimbledon finalist in Brisbane, the question becomes, just how good can he become?

The strengths

De Minaur’s court coverage is already very impressive. He showed repeatedly against Steve Johnson in the first round in Brisbane that he could move well and also defend with purpose. One forehand hit at the end of his range for a clean winner when facing set point was particularly impressive. He showed similar attributes against Raonic. Whilst most players in the modern game are impressive movers, to defend well requires a larger skill set.

It is not enough to simply reach the ball, it must be hit with some purpose or the point will swiftly be over. Djokovic, Nadal and Murray revolutionised the way tennis players defend with their ability to turn defence into attack from the corners. De Minaur is far from that level, but showed impressive promise. He repeatedly hit intelligent shots to stay alive in the point and was subsequently able to turn it around. That bodes well indeed for the future.

Arguably best of all was his returning. He showed a natural aggressiveness when returning as well as an ability to read the ball that Djokovic or Murray would have been proud of. Some of his return winners against Raonic, one of the biggest servers in the game, were incredible considering de Minaur is just 18. Whilst Raonic was not at his best, it was none the less an excellent display from de Minaur.

The weaknesses

His first serve looked useful enough against Raonic and Johnson, but with all due respect to them, neither are exactly elite returners. Though accurate, it could perhaps do with an injection of pace, something it may well receive as De Minaur continues to mature. His second serve also looked short of pace, and less accurate than his first. A better returner than Raonic and Johnson will exploit that and as De Minaur progresses into the senior game he will have to prepare for that.

He was also at times overly passive and rallies. Though playing as a counterpuncher is a fine tactical choice, at times a player must impose themselves on the rally, partly just so as to be used to doing it. De Minaur did so at the crucial times against Raonic, but those pressure moments were in large part allowed to develop because he was overly passive. That is a lesson to be learned as he goes forward.

RealSport’s verdict

On the strength of his performances both this year and last, the future looks exceedingly bright for De Minaur. He has also improved considerably since his appearance in Australia last year. His returning ability will be an incredibly useful weapon, and his groundstrokes look very solid. Though there are improvements to be made, it is rare that there aren’t in the game of an 18-year-old. If he continues to work hard, and crucially, perform at his best on the Futures and Challenger circuit, expect to hear much more from Alex De Minaur in the not too distant future.

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