Alex de Minaur turned embarrassment into ecstasy with his win over the ‘GOAT’ in Perth, but he’s not making any brash Australian Open statements just yet.
De Minaur set tongues wagging on Wednesday night with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over world No.1 Novak Djokovic to guide Australia into the semi-finals of the United Cup.
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It ended the Serbian’s stunning 43-game, seven-year winning streak in Australia.
The result was in stark contrast to a year ago, when de Minaur was thumped 6-2 6-1 6-2 by Djokovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
“The last time we played I was lucky to get games – to the point where I felt almost embarrassed on the court,” de Minaur reflected.
“It’s been a nice little change-up from one year ago.
“It’s not easy to walk back out on court after you’ve been thrashed last time.”
Wednesday’s triumph over Djokovic – winner of 24 grand slam events – marked the first time de Minaur has beaten a world No.1.
“I’m happy I can say I got a win over the GOAT,” de Minaur said, referring to Djokovic’s status as arguably the men’s game’s ‘greatest of all time’.
So after knocking off the super Serb, does the world No.12 think he can go all the way at Melbourne Park?
“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves,” de Minaur said.
“The level is there (but) five sets is a different beast. I’m happy with where my level is, where I am mentally, and the mindset I’ve got going in.
“I definitely know that I’ve got a very high top level and I would love to bring it for Melbourne.”
De Minaur’s on-court speed and agility have long been his major weapons.
But he’s also starting to develop other parts of his game – including power, deft backhand slices and rushes to the net.
De Minaur said part of his motivation for beating Djokovic was to prove the doubters wrong.
“It’s something I’ve heard my whole career – I’m not big enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m a pusher, don’t have the firepower, never going to be a top player,” de Minaur said.
The only thing that does is give me more fire and adds more gasoline to this engine that’s ready to do everything in its power to prove people wrong.”
De Minaur also destroyed world No.10 Taylor Fritz in Perth, and Djokovic praised the 24-year-old’s progress over the past year.
“He’s one of the quickest players on the tour,” the world No.1 said.
“He takes the ball early. He’s comfortable to come to the net. He’s using his serve well.
“He’s a very all-around player and great competitor, great fighter.
“He’s going to make you work very hard. You know you’re not going to get easy wins or easy points.”
Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt said the United Cup had been great preparation for de Minaur heading into the Open.
‘To get these kind of matches under his belt before his home grand slam is really important,” Hewitt said.
“It gives him the confidence. He’s been working hard… and it’s nice when it pays off.”