He’s one of the breakout stars on the men’s tour this season and on Tuesday, he received the ATP Newcomer of the Year award on centre court at the O2 Arena in London.
Australian Alex de Minaur rocketed up the rankings from outside the top-200 in January, to his current position of 31, and the 19-year-old is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young prospects on the circuit.
He was runner-up at the Next Gen ATP Finals tournament in Milan last week, to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and is arguably one of the fastest-moving players on tour.
“It’s funny. When I was a kid I had very big feet and I felt very clumsy out on the tennis court. I think once I was able to grow into my shoes, then the coordination and all the different aspects came together. My movement probably wasn’t there until maybe three or four years ago, that’s when it started to click,” De Minaur told a small group of reporters in London on Tuesday.
In town to receive his award and to take some ATP University classes, De Minaur’s offseason will see him go home to Alicante, Spain to get his driver’s license, before heading to Melbourne, Australia for his preseason training.
Asked what the Newcomer of the Year award means to him, he said: “It’s really special, especially for it to be voted by the player. It’s an incredible feeling and it helps what I’ve been trying to achieve this year, to feel like I belong here and to feel part of the tour and to be able to try to push these top guys. It’s been an incredible year and this is the cherry on the top.”
At 183cm, De Minaur is one of the shorter players belonging to the ‘Next Gen’ group that includes towering figures like Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz. The Aussie teen joked with the 193cm Fritz in Milan that he would give him some of his speed in exchange for a few centrimetres of height.
It was all just banter though as De Minaur insists he is confident in both his game and abilities.
“No,” he firmly says when asked if he’d trade his speed for being taller with a bigger serve.
“It’s part of who I am. Obviously it would be nice to have a massive serve and massive weapon like that, but this is just me. It’s helped me learn how to find ways to win. Because growing up, I’ve never been the biggest guy or the strongest guy, so you have to sort of have to develop a little bit of a court craft. And I think that’s really helped me become the player and the person I am now and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Sport360 caught up with De Minaur in Milan earlier this month to discuss his remarkable 2018.
You started the year ranked 208 in the world and now you’re No. 31. Did you expect something like this would happen this season?
Not at all. It’s been an incredible year for highs and things are never expected. I’ve really just enjoyed every second of it. It’s a pleasure to be able to compete at this level and play some great tennis throughout the whole year and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.
Your first month of the year was incredible, making the semis in Brisbane and the final in Sydney. What was that period like for you and did it help prepare you for what came next during the season?
The Australian summer was just insane. The support I got was incredible. There’s nothing better than playing at home, with your home support. It’s probably the best way I could have started the year. From then on I’ve tried to take that momentum and that self-belief and take it the whole year.
Can you try to describe what it felt like going through all these experiences at home?
It’s just incredible, everything about it. Being able to make a final where I grew up in Sydney with all my family and friends watching me, that was one of the best experiences out there. And then later on I made my Davis Cup debut, which was always a dream for me and probably one of my proudest moments ‘til this day.
The MC introduced you earlier as the Australian No. 1, how does that sound to you?
It’s another thing I never expected. I played some serious tennis and I really owe it all to the other Aussie players. They’ve helped me grow and believe in myself and play some good tennis. I think Australian tennis at the moment is in a good spot. We’ve got four guys in the top-40 and we all want the best for each other and we keep pushing each other, we watch each other play, train with each other and it’s just a great environment.
You’re Australian, your father is Uruguayan, your mother is Spanish, and you spent a lot of time between Spain and Australia, how do you feel your multi-cultural background has influenced you?
Obviously I went back and forth from Aus and Spain a lot and I feel I was able to grab the best things out of both worlds. I’ve learnt a lot from being in Aus, and a lot from being in Spain and I think it’s definitely helped me be the player and person I am right now.
So what are some of the best things from both worlds?
You get the hard-working qualities from one part, then being able to relax and get your mind off things. Tennis is a very mind-consuming sport so you’ve got to learn when to switch off and when to switch on.
You get to work with Lleyton Hewitt, alongside your coach Adolfo Gutierrez. What would be the thing Lleyton has helped you with the most?
I think probably the biggest thing is just belief. Belief in myself, in my game, that I belong there playing against these top guys on the tour.
Do you have any specific goals for yourself moving forward?
I’ve never been one of those guys, I like to take things day by day and see where it takes me. Enjoy the ride and get better each day. That’s always been my motto and I’m going to keep it that way.
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You mentioned your fellow Aussie players, what’s the vibe like between all of you guys?
We’re all great friends. The camaraderie there is between Australian players is great. Recently I’ve had a lot to deal with Johnny Millman and he’s helped me out a lot. He’s one of the most hard-working guys out there and he deserves everything in the world and more. He’s sort of helping me out, trying to be more professional. Just different aspects. Obviously he’s got a bit more experience than me, so I’m enjoying the ride and always trying to learn.
We talk about your speed a lot, and how it’s one of your biggest strengths. Have you ever timed yourself over 100m?
I can’t say I have. I’ve never really done track and field at all. The only other time I can remember is probably doing 400m laps, just as fitness. But I’ve never really timed myself.
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