‘Had a feeling it was going to be tough’: Demon relishing tough Aus Open challenge against ‘one of the best serves on tour’
Australian men’s No.1 Alex de Minaur insists he’s primed to handle an early Melbourne Park hurdle in former world No.3 Milos Raonic as he eyes a deep run in his home grand slam.
While de Minaur attempts to avoid an early banana skin, women’s leading local hope Ajla Tomljanovic believes she can be dangerous and spark some fear in the Australian Open’s early rounds.
World No.10 de Minaur could have counted himself unlucky to draw big-serving Canadian Raonic, who entered the Open with a protected ranking, first-up.
But the easygoing Australian is relishing the early test.
“Ultimately I had a feeling it was going to be a tough match coming up. When I drew Milos, it was basically that,” de Minaur said.
“He’s a very tricky opponent, the type of person that can take the racquet out of your hand. Obviously has an unbelievable serve and is very aggressive.
“It’s a tough match, but yet again, I’m excited to play. I’m playing some good tennis. I’ll be ready for the challenge.”
When asked how he planned to counter Raonic’s big serve, a smiling de Minaur quipped: “Well, guess the right way.
“Ultimately he’s got one of the best serves on tour, so it’s going to be very difficult to kind of get a read on that serve.
“Ultimately I’ve got to try and focus on my side of the court again, do what I’ve been doing really well, make a lot of balls, stay patient.
“If the opportunity is there, just go for it.”
Countrywoman Tomljanovic is determined to seize her opportunity.
A year after tearfully announcing her Melbourne Park withdrawal due to a knee injury that ultimately ruined a year when she had expected to contend for majors, the 30-year-old was contemplative.
“(I’m feeling) as well as I could have prepared, considering everything,” she said.
“I’d be lying if I’m sitting here and being like, ‘this is the best I’ve ever felt’, because that’s not also realistic.
“I feel happy with where I’m at. I think I’m always dangerous in these stages of the tournament. I still feel like people don’t want to play me, especially in the early rounds.”
If Tomljanovic beats Croatia’s Petra Martic, either 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko or countrywoman Kimberly Birrell awaits in the second round.
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Tomljanovic was adamant her tough 2023, and a patient road back to fitness, would hold her in good stead.
“We’ll see if it (the knee rehab) made me mentally tougher. I think it made me want it even more,” she said.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of resilience that took place in 2023. It for sure will pay off.”