De Minaur wants to make his mark again
AS the seventh seed at the Brisbane International, Australia's teen leader Alex de Minaur is trying not to think about one of his favourite courts being the site of his first ATP title on Sunday week.
De Minaur rose from No.209 to No.31 in 2018 and won the ATP Newcomer of the Year award.
The Spain-based 19-year-old is one of only two teenagers in the men's top 100, but has the experience of twice being an ATP tournament runner-up this year.
"It would be amazing (to win the Brisbane title) but I like to take things day by day,'' de Minaur said.
"I played some incredible tennis in Brisbane last summer and from there I gained momentum.
"I know the Brisbane crowd is one of the best and I'm looking forward to playing at Pat Rafter Arena again and leaving it all out there.''
In January, in Brisbane and Sydney, de Minaur became the youngest man since an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal in 2005 to reach consecutive semi-finals on the ATP Tour.
Saturday's draw will tell de Minaur where Nadal, the Brisbane International's top seed, will fall across his schedule.
While there is only one Nadal in terms of intensity in rallying, de Minaur will only become stronger in his capacity to drive opponents to distraction with his defence and he has also shown himself capable of terminating points with certainty.
De Minaur was hailed as a "gift to Australian tennis'' by Rod Laver after ending his season with a loss in the final of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Italy last month.
Asked about his refusal to give anything, it seems, but 100 per cent in matches, de Minaur said it was important to "set a standard'' for himself.
It's a level he sets for younger and older Australian players alike.
"Every time I step on the court, I'm there to show fighting spirit - fighting for every ball, it's what I want to be known for,'' he said.
De Minaur's Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt said he needed to embrace the January pressure of "having a target on his back" as the local No.1, a mantle two Grand Slam title winners, Pat Rafter and Sam Stosur, did not relish.
Former Australian Davis Cup captain John Newcombe said De Minaur's goal in 2019 should be a top 20 ranking and he is capable of being a top 10 player eventually.
For all his wins, two losses were revelatory. He took Alex Zverev, the 21-year-old German who beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to win the ATP Finals this month, to a fifth-set tiebreak at the Davis Cup in Brisbane when suffering from an abdominal strain.
But Zverev underlined the difference in their progress when he won a straight-sets match in China last month.
"I feel like I have the level in my game to push those top guys - maybe I can take one or two (wins) home next year,'' de Minaur said. "I've tried to enjoy the ride (this year).''