‘One of my best performances’: De Minaur flexes his mental strength to break Australia’s 17-year Paris drought


Alex de Minaur has hailed his backs-to-the-wall triumph at the French Open against an inspired big-hitting opponent and in the face of another mentally draining rain delay as one of his very best.

The Australian survived a hail of winners from powerhouse Jan-Lennard Struff but emerged the stronger after a four-and-a-half hour stoppage to win 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3 on Saturday, becoming the first Australian man for 17 years to reach the singles last-16 since his Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.

And at the end of a match that took over eight hours to complete, de Minaur reckoned he had discovered “gold at the end of the tunnel”.

“Another huge mental battle,” sighed the 25-year-old.

“It was probably one of my best performances, mentally, in my career to turn that match around with the conditions, with everything really against me.”

On another grey, dank Paris morning, the ‘Demon’ had a devil of a job coping with a rejuvenated 34-year-old giant playing lights-out tennis as he lost the first set and was reeling at 1-3 down in the second.

“Everything couldn’t get any worse, right? I knew that this was just his (Struff’s) ideal conditions to a T. Slow, heavy, rainy, muddy, he’s able to hit through the court and not make a lot of mistakes. 

“I just told myself the only chance or way I was going to win was just to fight ’til the end, fight every single point, keep battling, try to stay in no matter what. That’s what got me the win.

“Sometimes you don’t get rewarded, but a day like today where I’m backed against the wall, a lot of things going against me, and managing to kind of find the gold at the end of the tunnel, it’s huge. 

“It kind of gives me that confidence that I can do it again and again now.’

Indeed, de Minaur can consider the day he defused Struff’s thunderous game in six minutes under three hours in front of a largely pro-German crowd to make the second week in his least productive grand slam to be another key moment in his blossoming career.

I need to find the name of this legend!!! Message me on instagram, I need you for the next round ???????????? https://t.co/VCOvzXmTWh

— alex de minaur (@alexdeminaur) June 1, 2024

He fought back to take the second set but was 2-0 down in the third when the rains came for the fifth straight day at this trying Roland Garros.

It’s played on de Minaur’s nerves all week, the Aussie No.1 complaining that the constant interruptions to matches in the cold, damp conditions had added years to his life.

But it was the booming groundstrokes of world No.41 Struff that had looked more designed to give him grey hairs, as he had crashed 32 winners past the 11th seed before the stoppage came.

But it proved a timely one for de Minaur, as Struff admitted.

“After the rain, I felt he came on very well, played a bit more aggressive. At the end, he was playing very good, hitting very deep balls, getting into offensive positions,” said the German. “He did a great job.”

Indeed, when play finally resumed at 5.30, Struff’s guns were spiked.

De Minaur, at 3-1 down in the third, reeled off five games, and a break in the third game of the fourth was crucial, though de Minaur did suffer some nervous moments as Struff had two break points to get back on serve at 4-4. 

????????????#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/5Tkdiaa0Es

— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 1, 2024

But de Minaur wouldn’t be denied, and, afterwards rushed over to hug a kid at courtside who had been a non-stop cheerleader on this longest day.

And he was so impressed by his new No.1 fan that de Minaur, who gave his cheerleader a souvenir towel after his victory, later put out a plea on social media to find out the name of his young saviour so he could thank him properly.

“That young lad was there from the very first point ’til the last with five hours of rain delay,” de Minaur told reporters.

“He was this little kid that at every single change of ends, every single point I won, he was screaming at my face.

“I’m looking at him and thinking if I was a fan, I would probably be back home, because it was bloody cold out there!

“I don’t understand what this kid is doing, but, oh, he gave me life. 

“Every single change of ends I’m looking at him, locking eyes with him. 

“And at the end I just gave him a hug. I was, like, mate… it was a relief more than anything. 

“It was amazing. I appreciate this kid, the fact that he’s spent 10 hours at the court today in the freezing cold pumping me up. I was happy that I was able to get a win together with him.”

Next up is ponder the prospect of a fourth-round date with old foe, fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, who overcame Czech Tomas Machac 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 1-6 6-4. 

De Minaur was the first of the two remaining Australian singles players in action, with Thanasi Kokkinakis, creaking into the fray again after two exhausting five-setters, having his match with 12th seed Taylor Fritz, the American No.1, rearranged to take place on the same Court 14 immediately afterwards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.