Alex de Minaur, Australia’s top-ranked player and recent Sydney International winner faced off against world no. 2 Rafael Nadal for a place in the fourth round of the Australian Open tennis. The pair had last met at Wimbledon at the same stage and on that occasion, Rafa blasted de Minaur off the court. The score was 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. In an exact repeat at the Australian Open Rafa won 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in 2 hours 22 minutes.
Embed from Getty Images
Photo: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 18: Rafael Nadal of Spain serves in his third round match against Alex De Minaur of Australia during day five of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
The world no. 2 Nadal was at his brutal best giving the Australian little chance for victory. Nadal was hitting with power and depth that de Minaur found hard to handle. de Minaur has played big hitters before, but the spin and pop off the court from the heavy Nadal shots made it a tough night at the office for the 19-year-old Australian.
The only highlight to come from the match for de Minaur was that he forced Nadal to go to six match points to close out the Aussie, five in the final service game of Nadal’s.
Embed from Getty Images
Photo: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 18: Alex De Minaur of Australia plays a backhand in his third round match against Rafael Nadal of Spain during day five of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
“I got better as the match went on. I’ve had a great Aussie summer. I’m really proud of the effort I put in. I played some great tennis. Obviously, I’m a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to perform a little bit better. But that’s just what Rafa does to you,” De Minaur said. “You’ve got to go out there and pretty much redline. You’ve got to be able to go out there and perform your gameplan and execute. I felt like I wasn’t able to do that today. But I still got better as the match went on. I fought until the end.
“There were many games, especially on my service games, that had a lot of game points. I ended up getting broken. If I could have just held on a little bit more with my serve, applied a bit more pressure early on in the sets, then maybe I could have got in a little bit more chances on his serve. But, geez, he served well.”
Rafa Dominates de Minaur with his serve
Nadal served at 75% winning 82% of first serve points. de Minaur was at 57% on first serve winning 63%. Nadal hit 37 winners to 21 and the unforced errors were one stat that favoured the Aussie with 24 to 33.
de Minaur was broken five times throughout the match, Nadal not once. The closest de Minaur came to breaking was at 5-2 in the second set when he had a break point at 30-40 then two more times with Ad. Nadal eventually would hold to close out the set 6-2.
Nadal’s post-match Australian Open tennis reaction
When asked if Nadal felt this match was like two boxers of different weight he said “Is your view. I respect 100%. But for my side, is difficult to say that. I believe that I played a solid match. I played a good level of tennis, hitting a lot of good spots especially during the first two sets. Tried to don’t let him play comfortable, no?
I think for moments I tried to make him feel that my ball was good enough that he was not having the control of the point almost never. I know he’s dangerous. He’s super quick. He likes to go inside the court fast. I tried to not give him many chances on that.
Then my serve worked well. I felt more dynamic with my movements tonight, better than every — every day a little bit better, in my opinion. In general terms, I played a very solid match. I’m happier a little bit with my backhand tonight than two nights ago.
In general terms, everything is a step forward. So that’s positive news for me. I’m very happy for the victory because at the end of the day I won 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 against a player that he was winning seven matches in a row, winning a tournament. He’s young. He has that extra energy that the young guys have. Always is a dangerous match.”
After meeting three Australians – James Duckworth, Matt Ebden and De Minaur – to reach the fourth round, Nadal next takes on former world No.4 Tomas Berdych, who won their most recent meeting at Melbourne Park four years ago.