Australian Open 2019: Alex de Minaur, Rafael Nadal set to face off in third round as expectations soar ahead of all-Spanish duel

Half-Spanish Alex de Minaur said it will be special facing "king" Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open on Friday after the 17-time major champion called the teenager "one of the best players in the world".

The 19-year-old Australian number one De Minaur went to primary school in Spain, has a Spanish mother and an Uruguayan father. He speaks fluent Spanish.

Expectations are being heaped on the young shoulders of the 27th seed, nicknamed "Demon" by a feverish home support. Experts such as legend John McEnroe are predicting him as a future multiple-major champion.

Australian Open 2019: Alex de Minaur, Rafael Nadal set to face off in third round as expectations soar ahead of all-Spanish duel

Australia's Alex de Minaur celebrates after defeating Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen in their second round match at the Australian Open. AP

"Yeah, it's a different position for me, a position I'm not really used to. It's sort of come out of nowhere," De Minaur had said after a late-night second-round win.

The teenage sensation won the Sydney International warm-up last weekend, beating veteran Andreas Seppi in the final.

He extended his winning streak to seven matches by surviving Wednesday night's four-hour marathon against little-known Swiss Henri Laaksonen to set up a blockbuster last-32 clash with Nadal.

"Obviously, against Rafa that's going to be something special," said De Minaur, who was sent packing in straight sets by the Spaniard at the same stage of last year's Wimbledon.

"I got the chance to play him in Wimbledon on Centre Court. I feel like I learned a lot from that experience, hopefully, this time around I can go a bit more relaxed.

"Rafa is pretty much like the king in Spain. It's going to be fun for me to get out on the court and be able to test where I am."

Nadal said he was aware of De Minaur's Spanish heritage and rising status, and would not be taking him lightly.

"Yeah, since a couple of years ago, we know that we have a good player coming," said Nadal, who is going for an Aussie hat-trick having already knocked out James Duckworth and Matthew Ebden without dropping a set.

"I think he improved a lot during the last three years. Today, he is one of the best players of the world. That's the real thing.

"He's young, very young. He is winning a lot of matches. He's having a great improvement year-by-year. So let's see. Going to be a tough one."

Seven-time Grand Slam champion McEnroe is convinced De Minaur will be Australia's next big star.

"Alex de Minaur is coming along for sure — top 10 player to me," said the American on Australian TV of the slightly-built teenager, who has raised his career-high ranking 18 times since the start of 2018 from 208 to his current 29.

"Possible multiple Grand Slam winner if he can fill out a bit more," added McEnroe.

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Updated Date: Jan 17, 2019 13:24:51 IST

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