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Monday, 17 June 2024
Sports

Devastating image of Alex de Minaur after fourth-round loss to Andrey Rublev, consoled by Katie Boulter, analysis, why he lost, latest tennis news

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As the clock ticked towards midnight at Melbourne Park on Sunday night, Katie Boulter entered the players’ gym, approached her boyfriend Alex de Minaur and embraced him.

It was about ten minutes after de Minaur’s bid to reach his first Australian Open quarterfinal had been ripped apart by Andrey Rublev in a thriller clinched 4-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (4) 3-6 0-6.

De Minaur was pedalling furiously on the bike, warming down, ticking the boxes. Despite a defeat that left him clearly devastated, the world No.10 remained professional to the end.

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Depleted Demon consoled after tough loss | 00:33

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After the lengthy embrace, the 24-year-old pulled a towel over his head and cycled on.

“Maybe a couple of years ago, or even last year, I would be sitting here and maybe even happy with the result,” he said.

“I am sitting here and I am absolutely devastated because I saw it as a great opportunity … in a match I believe I ultimately could have won, but it just slipped away.”

Incremental improvement is the mantra de Minaur has repeated time and again in a summer where he claimed the scalps of Novak Djokovic, Taylor Fritz and Alexander Zverev.

Those three remain alive in the Australian Open. de Minaur’s dream is dashed. It stings.

And there was a clear sense that he was trying to make sense of it as he peddled onwards while moving nowhere on the stationary bike.

That will be the debate among the pundits tomorrow.

Is de Minaur moving forward? Was this Australian Open a success? Or is he stalling, having fallen in the fourth round for the third straight year?

The ‘Scary Movie’ inside Rublev’s mind | 01:23

As he said, “perspective changes with results”. He was not sure how to assess it, but “thought I had more in me”.

It would be the harshest judge who would suggest it was a failure given the quality of the performance against Rublev for much of the match and also several other measures.

There is no breakthrough quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne, which would have clearly been a success and more than a pass mark for the Australian No.1.

But after falling in convincing fashion to Jannik Sinner and then Novak Djokovic in the last two editions of the Australian Open, de Minaur took a couple of sets and fought to the end.

A couple of clear factors ring out. De Minaur is clearly getting stronger. The radar gun does not lie. Nor does the statistical analysis when it comes to the amount of winners he hit.

But what is clear is that the right-hander needs to work even harder to build strength and stamina to ensure that it is him finishing matches against the best stronger and faster.

And his serve, while significantly improved, ultimately let him down at critical stages in the match, as he acknowledged later. You can bet he will continue to focus on that.

RLA ERUPTS after insane DEMON Tie Break! | 01:28

As the match clock on Rod Laver Arena passed four hours on Sunday night, the alarm clock was ringing especially loudly for de Minaur.

For more than four sets, the top 10 rivals had been slugging it out from all parts of the court in a fourth-round match where the intensity and quality was scarcely believable at times.

Both men had expended a significant amount of energy. They had covered an incredible amount of ground in a match where the exchange of shots was akin to a table tennis match.

Rublev was almost shot. At the end of the fourth set, his support team scrambled in the stands to fill his drink bottle with packages of salt. There were signs he was cramping.

But the Australian was struggling to cope with Rublev’s pace of shot. Despite the fatigue, Rublev was swinging hard and accurately, clubbing winners galore.

As de Minaur said; “The racquet was taken out of my hand.”

From his emergence on to the scene as a teenager, de Minaur prided himself on resembling a “blue wall”, a phrase borrowed from his beloved New South Wales State of Origin team.

But on the two-toned blue court at Melbourne Park, the seven-time titleist had hit the wall.

For the second major in succession, the Aussie had taken it to a more mature, better credentialed Russian in a fourth-round match, yet ultimately been outlasted.

De Minaur falls short after five-set war | 01:53

Daniil Medvedev ultimately got the better of him in gruelling conditions in New York. And Rublev outlasted him on Sunday night. The Russian deserves a hat tip.

That 12-point streak to close out the fourth set and begin the fifth was inspiring and the period in which he broke the back of the Australian.

To produce a performance of that quality, and to retain his resolve after dropping successive tiebreakers, with the entirety of the crowd supporting the hometown hero is superb.

As doubles great Todd Woodbridge said in commentary, Rublev “ruined de Minaur’s dream of reaching a quarterfinal here with some of the best ball striking you will ever see.”

Rublev’s response afterwards was enlightening.

“I told myself, ‘you are going to die today but you will do everything. And then I started to play better and better and I found a way to win,’” Rublev said.

De Minaur is doing everything he can to get the best out of himself.

And his results elsewhere prove that the improvement is coming. He arrived in Melbourne seeking to demonstrate this in a grand slam. His desire remains extremely strong.

Pat Rafter told this scribe prior to the Australian Open it might not happen for de Minaur here. But he believes at some stage over the next three years, the door will open for him.

“Life goes on. I know the areas I need to improve on … and hopefully next time, I will take it to the next level,” de Minaur said.

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