De Minaur turns to Hewitt as hype builds
AUSTRALIAN young gun Alex de Minaur has been getting tips from his childhood hero Lleyton Hewitt on how to cope with the suffocating pressure he can expect heading into the first grand slam of 2019.
Just 19 but already Australia's highest ranked male player at 31, de Minaur's best years are ahead of him but Hewitt is preparing him mentally and physically to shoulder the burden of trying to end Australia's long drought at Melbourne Park.
"Because I'm not the biggest or tallest guy, I have to play a different brand of tennis," de Minaur said.
"Growing up seeing what Lleyton did on court is something I have tried to emulate, and I think one of the most important things he's told me is to be fit and be able to keep your head up.
"He's told me just to believe in myself and that I belong here because I've got the level, I just have to keep bringing it week in, week out and if you keep doing those things the results will come."
Fresh from being named along with Ashleigh Barty as the co-winner of the John Newcombe Medal for Australian player of the year, de Minaur has set his sights on winning a Grand Slam but isn't making any bold predictions.
He knows he'll have to be patient while Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still dominating.
"I think we're definitely knocking on the door, we're putting ourselves out there but we're obviously not there just yet, even though we're doing everything in our power to keep pushing ourselves and get better," he said.
"I think it's really important to stay patient and if you put in the hard yards the results will come."
De Minaur will play the Brisbane International from December 30-January 6 before joining Barty at the Sydney International from January 6-12, each hoping to go one better than a year ago when they made their respective singles' final.
De Minaur will be seeded sixth for Sydney while Barty won't be seeded at all, even though she's ranked 15th in the world, because of the incredible depth of entrants, which includes world No.1 Simona Halep and US Open champion Naomi Osaka.
"It's a pretty amazing field," Barty said. "It's going to be one of those draws that, from the first round, it could be a quarter-final match.
"That's one of the best things. You want to prepare yourself and test yourself as best you can the week before a slam and what a week to try and do it in Sydney, to try and replicate what we did last year.
"Hopefully we can hit the ground running, play some good tennis and have another deep run."