For most of his career, Alex De Minaur has been on the cusp of making the jump from good to great. He’s been a steady fixture on the ATP tour since 2016 and regularly makes solid runs at major tournaments, he’s even won six ATP titles. But what De Minaur has never done is threaten those ranked at the top. That was until he defeated former world number one Daniil Medvedev in an epic showdown at the Paris Masters.
The man known as the ‘Demon’ definitely doesn’t have the best record against top-five opponents. De Minaur came into his second-round match against Medvedev having lost all 18 of his previous matchups against players in the top-five of the ATP rankings. But history and past records don’t count for anything on the court.
De Minaur got the upper hand early, winning the first set 6-4 before the ever-resilient Medvedev struck back with a ferocious 2-6 second set. It looked like history would repeat itself and De Minaur’s 0-18 record would worsen after the Aussie went on down 0-2 in the deciding set. But he held his nerve and came back to win the final set in a hotly contested 7-5 finale.
The victory is a major milestone for De Minaur, who’s abysmal record against top ranked players has led some to claim he doesn’t have what it takes to be one of the best. De Minaur made light of his poor record in a post-match interview, “I just wanted to wait for the 19th game, why do it in the first 18?” he said, poking fun at himself.
This isn’t the first time De Minaur and Medvedev have matched up. In their four previous meetings, the Russian easily handled the Aussie without much of a struggle. De Minaur’s first victory over Medvedev didn’t come easily. The match was a hard-fought series of back-and-forth games and lengthy rallies, but by its conclusion, the Aussie looked significantly stronger both mentally and physically than his Russian counterpart. “I knew it was going to be a tough battle. He’s an incredibly tough opponent. I knew what to expect and I’m glad I played a very tactical match out there,” said De Minaur.
The constant pressure brought on by De Minaur was too much for Medvedev, who lost his cool in the final set. De Minaur’s relentless offensive assault resulted in 25 unforced errors from Medvedev and two crucial double faults in the last game which gave the Aussie the victory after a gruelling 2 hours and 46 minutes. “When you’re playing Daniil you’ve got to find a very fine balance between being solid and being aggressive,” said De Minaur.
Fans have criticised Medvedev’s behaviour following the match. The world number three smashed his racquet into the court while the Parisian audience blasted him with boo’s. He then directed his anger towards the umpire, claiming the official “has something against me”. Despite the post-match drama, Medvedev had nothing but respect for his opponent and was quick to congratulate De Minaur.
Medvedev hasn’t had a great couple months against Australian players. The Russian has been defeated by De Minaur’s fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios twice in the last three months. First at the Montreal Masters in August and then at the US Open less than a month later. Medvedev was the defending champion at both tournaments and the defeats saw him lose almost 3,000 ranking points. Consequently, losing his status as world number one and dropping all the way down to fourth. Medvedev has since battled back to the number three spot, but his latest defeat caps off what has been a disappointing year for the Russian.
De Minaur will now play US Open semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe in the round of 16. If the Demon wins his match up with Tiafoe, he will reclaim bragging rights over Nick Kyrgios as the highest ranked Australian men’s player.