10:10 PM GMT January 04, 2018
“That was incredible!”
On Wednesday night, Alex de Minaur earned his most important victory as a professional so far by defeating Milos Raonic, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. In the tunnel between the changing rooms and the court, de Minaur was congratulated by Australian legend Lleyton Hewitt, who plays an advisory role in steering de Minaur through the early stages of his career.
By defeating Raonic, the 2016 champion in Brisbane and this year's fourth seed, de Minaur earned a spot in the quarter-finals and improved on his previous best showing (Round of 32 in 2017). This year, de Minaur is clearly in a different position.
“I've improved a lot of aspects of my game,” the Australian told ATPWorldTour.com following his win over Raonic at Pat Rafter Arena. “I'm in better shape, both physically and mentally. Obviously, that helps me a lot on the court. It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can play against the likes of Raonic and be competitive.”
De Minaur lifted his game at key moments throughout the match. The #NextGenATP rising star nullified Raonic's powerful serves and fed off the support of an enthusiastic crowd that was eager to see their countryman win. De Minaur, for his part, showed poise and always gave fans reason to believe he could upset Raonic, even when matters got complicated.
“At the end of the day, you have to be convinced you can win once you step on the court,” de Minaur said. “If I don't believe I can win, then I should just stay home. What's the point in playing if I don't think I can win? Of course I had my doubts. Only a small bit of me believed I could actually beat [Raonic], honestly, but that was all I needed. I tried to enjoy myself on the court and give the fans that came to support me a good time. That's what I do, and it's working so far.”
Born in Sydney to a Uruguayan father and Spanish mother, de Minaur spent the first years of his life in Spain. At a young age, de Minaur returned with his parents to Sydney when they opened a restaurant, in addition to a car wash they previously owned in the Australian city. Soon after, de Minaur took up tennis and, with the help of the Australian Tennis Federation, eventually made the leap into the professional ranks.
Of all the support de Minaur has received in Australia, it's been Hewitt who has provided his expert vision and guidance in grooming de Minaur as he started his career. Hewitt was courtside for de Minaur's first two matches in Brisbane.
“It means a lot to me that he's there to give me advice,” de Minaur said of the former World No. 1. “He has a lot of faith in me and that I have the game to compete with the best in the world. One of the first things he told me was to believe in myself. It helps to have him in my corner in situations like [the Raonic match]; he breaks down how to deal with the pressure and the expectations.”
De Minaur also expressed his gratitude to his coach, Adolfo Gutierrez, who has been a key player in the Australian's progress as a player. The pair currently train in Alicante, Spain.
“Having Adolfo Gutierrez, with whom I have been working for almost eight years, is very important for me,” De Minaur said of the Spanish coach. “He knows both sides of me, on and off the court. For that reason, I'm happy to experience this with him, and that we're realising the best victories of my career together.”
The first weeks of 2017 were a dream come true for de Minaur: He battled through qualifiers in Brisbane and played his first main draw match at an ATP World Tour event (l. Alexander Zverev). A week later, he earned his first ATP World Tour win by defeating Benoit Paire at the Sydney International.
Finally, de Minaur made the perfect Grand Slam debut by saving a match point and storming back to defeat Gerald Melzer in five sets during the first round of the Australian Open, winning the hearts of Australian fans in the process.
In Brisbane on Friday, De Maurer record a victory over fellow #NextGenATP Michael Mmoh, and afterwards explained, "I reckon the best way to describe this is at the moment, I'm in this really good dream and I really don't want to wake up." With a place in the semi-finals in Brisbane and a promising 2018 ahead, de Minaur has no plans to slow down; the goal is to reach his full potential.