05:52 AM GMT November 12, 2018
Australian Alex de Minaur finished last season’s ATP Race To Milan in 36th position, and he would complete the year at No. 208 in the ATP Rankings. Just more than 10 months later, De Minaur reached the championship match at the Next Gen ATP Finals to cap a breakthrough campaign in which he soared to World No. 31, becoming the No. 1 Aussie.
So while De Minaur fell just short of topping off his achievements with a title at the Fiera Milano, losing the final two sets of a tight four-setter against top-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in tie-breaks, the 19-year-old has nothing to be ashamed of. After all, he has come a long way in a short period of time.
“No regrets,” De Minaur said. “You often are going to play a lot of tie-breaks, and he played well when he needed to. In the big points, he used his serve well and I probably just missed a couple forehands here and there, and that was the difference. But overall, [I am] very happy with my performance. I mean, all credit to Stefanos. He was a better player today.”
When De Minaur embarked on his 2018, he owned just two tour-level match wins. It didn’t take the Aussie long to crack that mark, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane and his maiden ATP World Tour championship match in Sydney in his first two tournaments of the year. But that would prove to be just the beginning, as De Minaur would win 28 matches this year, a dream scenario for the teenager.
“Definitely [a dream]. And I'm very happy it's over. It's been a long season, a season I'll never forget. I've played some incredible tennis throughout the whole year and both mentally and physically, I feel like it's time to take a break,” De Minaur said. “But [I’m] really proud with myself, and I really owe it all to the team of people I've put around me.”
Finishing off his ‘dream’ season with a strong run at the second Next Gen ATP Finals was a perfect way to add to his momentum heading into the offseason. Again, De Minaur owned two tour-level wins before the season. Yet he ended 2018 with four consecutive victories against some of the best #NextGenATP players in the world with the loss of a combined three sets, only being stopped by World No. 15 Tsitsipas in an intense final.
“I knew coming in it was going to be a really tough tournament. I mean, all these guys out here, they deserve to be here and it's no mistake that they're here. They've played incredible tennis throughout the year and they've qualified,” De Minaur said. “I'm just really proud with the level I've shown each day, even today. Things didn't go my way, but I kept to my gamestyle and tried to play aggressive and the way I needed to play to really try to hurt Stefanos. But a couple of shots here and there made a difference. And so the beauty about this sport [is that] sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don't.”