Rafael Nadal is currently ranked the best tennis player in the world and is on a hot streak. So far in 2018 he has four new championships added to his resume, one of them being a historic 11th title at the French Open. And he has easily cruised to victories in the first two rounds at Wimbledon.
But Nadal could have his hands full during the 3rd round of Wimbledon, when he takes on the energetic, young emerging force that is Alex de Minaur. The 19-year-old from Australia is gaining confidence and earning respect on the professional circuit.
In the second round, de Minaur routed the more experienced Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, winning in four sets. Going into Saturday’s matchup with Nadal, de Minaur is now focused solely on his singles game. (He and partner John Millman fell in the second round on the doubles side).
De Minaur does not appear to be nervous about his impending matchup with the 17-time Grand Slam champion. He told reporters Thursday, “It’s an experience I am really looking forward to, playing a legend like [Nadal] is. But once I get on court it is going to be just another match. I am going to go out there, compete have fun and leave it all out there.”
Here’s what you need to know about Alex de Minaur.
1. De Minaur Split His Childhood Between Australia and Spain
Alex de Minaur was born on February 17, 1999 in Sydney, Australia. His mother, Esther, is Spanish and his father Anibal is originally from Uruguay. De Minaur lived in Australia until he was 5, when the family decided to relocate to Alicante, Spain. Thanks to that multicultural upbringing, de Minaur speaks three languages: English, Spanish and French.
He completed most of his early education in Spain, before returning to Australia as a teenager. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, De Minaur received distance education while he trained at the Olympic Park headquarters of Tennis NSW. Today, De Minaur again calls Alicante home. But he continues to be supported by Tennis Australia.
De Minaur turned professional in 2015. The ATP currently ranks him #80 in the world. He says his favorite surface to play on is grass; on the Challenger Tour he has dominated on grass. But on the ATP World Tour, he has performed the best on hard court.
2. De Minaur’s Mentor is a Former World #1 Tennis Star
When it comes to mentors, Alex de Minaur could not have dreamed up a more perfect match: former world #1 tennis champion Lloyd Hewitt. Like de Minaur, Hewitt turned pro as a teenager. In 2001, at the age of 21, Hewitt became the youngest men’s singles player in history to reach the coveted #1 ranking. He still holds that record to this day. During his earlier years, Hewitt won two major championships: the 2001 U.S. Open against American Pete Sampras, and the 2002 Wimbledon title over David Nalbandian from Argentina.
Hewitt said he first noticed de Minaur on the junior level. He says he admired the young player’s work ethic, and the fact that de Minaur managed to appear at-ease even when surrounded by some of the world’s top players. Over the past few years, Hewitt has really taken de Minaur under his wing. In 2017, the teen lived with Hewitt and his family while training for the Australian Open. De Minaur was again under Hewitt’s roof in the weeks leading up to Wimbledon.
Their partnership extends beyond just mentor-mentee. They are also teammates on the doubles circuit! In April 2018, Hewitt and de Minaur competed together at the ATP Estoril tournament in Portugal. They lost in the second round to eventual champions Kyle Steven Edmund and Cameron Norrie.
3. Nadal Recognizes de Minaur as a Potential Threat
Alex de Minaur says he grew up idolizing Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer. But to be talked about as an actual threat by the current best player in the world has to make him feel special. Rafael Nadal acknowledged that the teenager would make him work for it. This will be the first time the two have ever played against each other. Nadal told reporters after his second-round win, “I know [Alex]. He’s good. He’s young. He’s dangerous. Good player. So let’s see — he’s a good challenge for me, too.” But Nadal ended that assessment by expressing confidence that he would still come out on top. “I’m very happy with the way that I played today and that’s going to be good energy to play the next round.”
Fellow Australian pro and teammate Nick Kyrgios also heaped praise on de Minaur after his own second-round victory. De Minaur knows Kyrgios well; de Minaur says he has received a lot of guidance from him and Bernard Tomic during his transition onto the ATP world stage. The two pros also reportedly bestowed de Minaur with his nickname, “Demon.”
About 5:30 into the video below, Kyrgios expresses optimism that his young teammate will perform well against Rafael Nadal. He told reporters: “[Alex] is going to be a guy that’s going to love playing on grass for his whole career. These type of balls, nightmare, so flat. He’s a great returner. I honestly think he can cause some damage the next round. I don’t think Rafa is going to be liking the ball that’s going to come at him constantly for three hours. It’s going to be a tough ask for him, but I think [Alex] could definitely cause a little bit of discomfort.”
4. De Minaur Won His First Singles Championship Just Weeks Before Wimbledon
Hard to believe it with all the type now surrounding him, but Alex de Minaur has just one singles championship under his belt so far in his young career. That hard-earned victory came in June 2018 at the Nottingham Open, a Challenger-level tournament. He beat British pro Dan Evans 7-6, 7-5.
De Minaur thanked his fans after that big win and told reporters, “I really couldn’t be prouder of myself.” He also said he would celebrate the victory with a visit to a steakhouse!
On the junior side, de Minaur had an impressive year at the age of 17. He won his first doubles championship at the 2016 Australian Open alongside teammate Blake Ellis. He also impressed the tennis world by reaching the finals at Wimbledon. He lost to Denis Shapovalov of Canada, who is currently ranked #25 in the world and the youngest player to reach the ATP top 100. (He is two months younger than de Minaur).
De Minaur reached a career-high ranking of #2 on the juniors circuit. In 2017, he earned a wild card entry into the Australian Open, where he made his Grand Slam debut. He battled Gerald Melzer of Austria in the first round, winning in five sets. He lost in the second round to American Sam Querrey, who is currently ranked #13 in the world on the ATP.
5. De Minaur Already Has a Large Social Media Following
Alex de Minaur may be a fresh face at the Grand Slams, but he already has a large fan base on social media. He has just under 12,000 Twitter followers, and nearly 44,000 fans on his Instagram page, which is largely made up of pictures from the tennis court. He sometimes gives fans a glimpse into his workout routine. In this short video above, he joked, “If you don’t post a video of you working out on Instagram, then did you really work out???
And after his second-round win at Wimbledon, de Minaur even got a shout-out from movie star Hugh Jackman, who referred to de Minaur by his “demon” nickname.
If Alex de Minaur performs well in the third round of Wimbledon against Nadal, he can likely expect his fan base to expand exponentially! And with a heavyweight like Lleyton Hewitt on his side, de Minaur has a chance to be the next big thing in the world of tennis.
De Minaur and Nadal meet in round 3 of Wimbledon Saturday at 8AM ET.
Source: Heavy Sports