Alex de Minaur’s latest clay-court adventure is over after he was overpowered by Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the Italian Open.
Australia’s No.1 de Minaur, who’s enjoying his best-ever campaign on the surface, found the rejuvenated Zverev’s firepower just too much to cope with at the Foro Italico on Thursday as he went down 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in their last-16 clash.
The Sydneysider, who’s doubled his number of career wins on clay in a successful 2022 campaign which was capped by him almost reaching the Barcelona final, was running into another man in form, with Zverev having reached the Madrid final last week.
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De Minaur was quickly playing catch up as the world No.3 raced into a 3-0 lead but from then on, there was not a massive amount between them, with Zverev’s weight of shot perhaps inevitably proving the difference as he cracked 21 winners to the Aussie’s eight.
When de Minaur was broken at 5-5 in the second set, his familiar scurrying defiance still enabled him to fight back and take the stanza into a tiebreak.
At 5-2 down in the breaker, there also seemed no way back for de Minaur but he managed to level, only for Zverev to earn match point and then seal the deal with a dazzling backhand dropshot which was so precise it even defeated one of the fastest defenders in the game.
“Alex is a great player and a great returner, so losing your serve here and there can happen so I need to work on serving it out a little more,” said Zverev, praising an opponent he’s now beaten six times, while losing just once.
“I tried to stay aggressive. I had to hit my shots quite hard against Alex and it worked out well today.”
Zverev, who’s after his first title of a difficult year, is working again with his father and coach Alexander, who’s back on the circuit after a prolonged absence for reasons the family has kept private.
When Zverev won the ATP Finals in November, his older brother and fellow pro, Mischa, was coaching him.
“I’m very happy for my father to be back here. It gives me a certain calmness, a certain confidence as well, because he’s been there from the beginning of my career. I think nobody knows me better on the court than he does,” said Zverev.
For de Minaur, defeat meant the disappointment of not managing to get back into the world’s top 20 with the French Open approaching.
But the 23-year-old looks in better shape for Roland Garros than in any of his previous five visits, having never got beyond the second round.