‘Lot of heart in this little body’: de Minaur savours biggest title

Alex de Minaur is celebrating the biggest title of his career as he prepares to gatecrash the world’s top 20 and replace Nick Kyrgios as the top-ranked Australian again.

With Kyrgios still recovering from knee surgery, de Minaur’s riveting 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Australian Open semi-finalist Tommy Paul in Sunday’s Acapulco final will propel him to No.18 and within three spots of his career-high ranking.

Alex de Minaur plays a forehand return on his way to beating Tommy Paul in the Acapulco final.Credit:AP

Kyrgios, who won the Acapulco title four years ago, will also miss the upcoming ATP Masters 1000 tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami.

De Minaur stared down defeat when he faced five break points in the opening game of the final set against the American, but impressively rallied to claim his maiden ATP 500 title and seventh overall in almost 2 ½ hours.

The fifth of those break points was saved with a spearing first serve that Paul could not retrieve, and the 24-year-old Sydneysider won more than 80 per cent of his first-serve points in a development that should make him even tougher to beat.

It was de Minaur’s first final at ATP 500 level since the legendary Roger Federer denied him in the 2019 Basel final.

Alex de Minaur raises the trophy after the win.Credit:AP

“It feels great, it feels amazing. I know the hard work that’s been put in to be here, and it’s good to see the results always,” he told the ATP afterwards.

“It’s not always that you win a tournament and you get to finish a week unbeaten, so I’ll definitely cherish this going into Indian Wells and Miami.”

The result caps de Minaur’s arrival as a genuine threat to the tour’s best players, including his first three top-five scalps – Daniil Medvedev, Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev – and an upset of world No.10 Holger Rune in the Acapulco semi-finals.

He has not been ranked this highly since August 2021 and remains on track to tick off his goal from the start of the year of eventually breaking into the top 10.

“Like everything in my career; it’s been step-by-step. I just want to keep pushing, keep getting the most out of myself,” de Minaur said.

“I know I might not play unbelievable tennis every day, but I know I’m going to fight until the end. I’ve got a whole lot of heart in this little body of mine and I enjoy competing, so I’m very happy with it.”

This was a typically gutsy de Minaur performance, complete with repeat gruelling baseline exchanges and tricky moments he had to negotiate, as well as overcoming the disappointment of handing back a second-set break advantage.

A faltering backhand harmed his chances throughout the contest, but his scorching winner off that wing deep in the second set earned him dual set points – and he needed just one as Paul thudded a ball into the net.

Alex de Minaur savours the moment.Credit:AP

But de Minaur’s ability to hang tough in the opening game of the deciding set proved a mental blow that Paul, who spent 3½ hours on court the previous day to defeat countryman Taylor Fritz, could not recover from.

“It was huge,” de Minaur said. “I just dug deep and managed to scrap my way through [the second set], then the first game of the third set was exactly like my semi-final against Holger, so I had that in the back of my mind.

“I just told myself to keep pushing, and if I could keep pushing myself and get out of that game, then the momentum was going to switch, so I was very happy I was able to get out of that.”

Newly appointed co-coach Peter Luczak was in the stands to watch de Minaur’s greatest victory, but they won’t have long to cherish this success, with the Indian Wells Masters only days from starting.

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