12:12 AM GMT November 10, 2019
Alex de Minaur’s solid baseline tennis gives him plenty of chances to gain momentum in matches and the Aussie typically uses those opportunities well. But in Saturday’s title match against Jannik Sinner at the Next Gen ATP Finals, his straight-sets defeat was due in part to his missed opportunities. The top-seeded Aussie couldn’t convert any of his nine break points on the night, including seven in the second set.
But statistics can be deceiving. De Minaur credited Sinner with not allowing him to play a role in critical points that could have shifted the momentum.
“He could not have played any better on the break points. [In the first game], I missed a rally ball. Out of nine break points, I'm pretty sure that's the best chance I had,” De Minaur said. “Maybe if I had gotten a couple of those break points early, it would have been a completely different match. It ended up being that he just played too good.”
De Minaur admitted not being familiar with Sinner prior to this week, but they practised together and got to know each other off the court in Milan. He praised the Italian as a “genuine, humble, grounded sort of kid,” and believes the Italian’s breakout run in Milan is only a sign of things to come.
“Jannik is a hell of a player and he was too good. I'm sure that if he keeps this level up, he's going to quickly rise up the [ATP] Rankings,” De Minaur said. “He's still so young and [does] not [have] a lot of experience on Tour. That's why I think he’s where he's at, but come next year, that's going to quickly change.”
Although De Minaur was understandably disappointed to leave Milan with another runner-up showing, he was able to look at the positives of his best year on Tour. The 20-year-old arrived this week at a career-high No. 18 in the ATP Rankings after earning his three tour-level titles in Sydney (d. Seppi), Atlanta (d. Fritz) and Zhuhai (d. Mannarino). He also finished runner-up in Basel (l. to Federer) and scored his first Top 10 win against Kei Nishikori at the US Open.
The Aussie’s inspired run last year helped serve as a springboard to success. With preseason plans already locked in, he’s confident that he can replicate the feat in 2020.
“I don't think it would be very smart if I judge my season with this one match,” De Minaur said. “I’ve had my best season yet and it's all been thanks to a lot of hard work that we put in. I'm very happy to be able to sit down and know that I finished the year at No. 18. It's of a goal that we put ourselves to and I'm happy to be able to finish off the year like that.”