Atlanta Open: 20-year-old Alex de Minaur belies age to clinch second ATP title and boost US Open hopes

Australia's Alex de Minaur had been, to borrow a sporting metaphor, knocking it out of the park all week, but if his performances over the earlier rounds of the Atlanta Open took the cake, his final showing was icing, cherry and more all rolled into one.

The numbers tell a very clear tale of just how good De Minaur had been this tournament, and how. The ATP began recording statistics in 1991 — less than a decade before de Minaur was born, and the 20-year-old has become only the third person in recorded men's tennis to win a tournament without even facing a single breakpoint.

Through the entirety of the tournament, De Minaur dropped only seven points on his first serve, winning 116 out of 123. His opponent on Sunday, Taylor Fritz, is no pushover; the American will move up to a career-highest of 28th by reaching the final.

Although he already looks to be cementing his hard-court specialist title, De Minaur had been throughout the tournament, and particularly in the final, very reminiscent of a certain Rafael Nadal. Not afraid to chase down the wildest of shots, De Minaur slid across the court to return Fritz's big serves throughout the match. Stamina may be easier to find when you're 20, but De Minaur certainly did a lot of running around during the final.

Fritz was no slouch during the match; the two had comfortable breaks of serve through the first set, with De Minaur holding 16 of his 17 points on serve. Until 3-3, Fritz was serving a strong game, pulling out an ace on occasion, and sent his rival chasing after several shots.

For De Minaur, both his backhand and forehand came through phenomenally, turning what was a well-fought match into one that seemed rather one-sided. Although De Minaur is tall by conventional standards, by tennis standards, he stands at quite an average height; in fact, his rival, Taylor Fritz is 6'5". What came through for the Australian was his court movement and his feistiness.

Generally, shorter players are able to move quickly across the court, but de Minaur has found a happy — and immensely successful medium in both his quick serves — and his coverage. Not giving up on even a single shot, de Minaur chased down every point, holding on with that Nadal-esque single-mindedness that brought him so convincingly, into the final. Only two other players have won a tournament without facing a single breakpoint. Tommy Haas achieved the feat in 2007 at the Memphis Open, and John Isner did it only two years ago in Newport, both on hard courts, and both in the United States.

But tellingly for De Minaur, the Australian is only twenty — Haas was 29 when he won, and Isner 32 when he won his title. Consistent in his early service games, De Minaur quickly put pressure on Fritz, and at 3-3 in the first set, the pressure got to the American, causing his game to come apart. De Minaur had some impeccable shot placement, particularly with some cross-court forehands that left Fritz standing on the other side of the net with his hands on his hips just watching on. Although it was only 6 games in, that game appeared to be the turning point of the match, with Fritz making a couple of errors and handing De Minaur the break.

Having already got the first break, the Australian was almost clinical in cleaning out the set - including a love hold to take it to 5-3. He would go on to break to seal the set at 6-3.

For all of Fritz's faltering towards the end of the first set, the second set was significantly less one-sided. The American was strong in the second set, with some great returns, and looked invigorated in his game. His shots looked cleaner, found their mark more often, and the second set was more comfortable

With a breakout showing in 2018, the Australian, born at the turn of the millennium, has firmly continued to carve a name for himself in 2019. And although it may be too early to entirely establish a trend, De Minaur has certainly made his mark.

Although it is still early days in his showing on the Tour, De Minaur has shown a strong proclivity towards the quick hard court surface, something that will stand him in great stead going into the US Open.

Perhaps this Atlanta Open title match was the best display of just how good the younger generation is getting; De Minaur is 20, while Fritz, is only a year older. De Minaur, who won the boys' doubles at the Australian Open in 2016 — and this year, the Sydney International, is turning quickly into the next big hardcourt hope. The protege of Lleyton Hewitt, De Minaur is Australia's new men's tennis hope after Ashleigh Barty has firmly become the country's new biggest sporting heroine.

De Minaur is now at No 3 on the Race to Milan at the ATP NextGen finals, where he finished runner-up to Stefanos Tsitsipas last year. The now 25th ranked Australian will be on a high going into the US Open, particularly considering he pushed former champion Marin Cilic to five sets only last year. With two hard-court titles already under his belt, he certainly has an excellent head start.

Updated Date: Jul 29, 2019 17:48:09 IST