Australian Open Preview 3r Rafael Nadal vs Alex de Minaur

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Australian Open 3rd round Preview- Rafa Nadal (2) Vs Alex de Minaur, Rod Laver Arena, from 7pm.

Rafa Nadal will have to defeat his third Australian hope in a row to progress to the fourth round, and the draw has saved the best of the Aussies for last in the shape of Alex de Minaur.

de Minuar, aged 19 and ranked 29, is the No.1 Australian and one of those rare species in the pro game right now – a highly ranked and title winning teen.

Nadal was one of the last of the teen phenoms to roam the upper echelons of pro tennis, his gallivanting resulting in his first Roland Garros at de Minaur’s age.

Such an achievement might not be written in de Minaur’s stars (he’d have to win this Australian Open to make it happen), but the young Australian is touted to match Nadal as a future slam winner and a probable No.1.

de Minaur’s coach, Llyeton Hewitt, knows all about those hall of fame feats, and he can also regale his charge with tales of what it was like to play a teenage Nadal in Melbourne on Rod Laver, Hewitt defeating Nadal in 2004 and again in 2005 in a classic five setter.

This Nadal-de Minaur clash has the potential to emulate that ’05 epic and deliver the first tightly contested night match to the Rod Laver crowd this tournament.

de Minaur has been competing as well as any player on the tour this early in the season, winning his first ever title in Sydney and beating Pedro Sousa in straights and qualifier Henri Laaksonen in five in his first couple of rounds this week.

Versus Laaksonen, de Minaur did not capitulate to the lethal combo of in-form qualifier and the letdown that could have befallen him after his emotional Sydney win.

de Minaur piled up a winners to unforced errors deficit of -30 (26-56) and will need to clean up his game, but with a day of recovery and a night match versus Rafa Nadal on Rod Laver on the horizon, and all the adrenaline that comes with that, a second wind is sure to blow de Minaur’s way.

Nadal will be ready for de Minaur and the crowd having shown some positive form and playing two home hopes previously. The Spaniard, playing his first tournament since the US Open, dropped two service games in his first round, but went unbroken in his second rounder, winning 81% of the 65% of first serves he made, and averaging 187 kmh service speeds. Nadal also approached the net 18 times in his second rounder, winning 12 of the points, and hit 33 winners to 15 unforced errors.

A serving performance in the high percentages as well as an aggressive game with a positive winner to error ratio are just what Nadal needs if he is going to win this year’s Australian Open.

Aged 31 and his body struggling on hard courts, serving big, flattening out and going for his shots, and finishing points quickly are what Nadal’s Australian Open campaigns are built on nowadays. He’s done well, too, reaching the final in ’17 and last year’s quarters before an upper right leg injury forced him to retire.

But, that hard court friendly game is one which can be negated by de Minaur who will test Nadal’s execution with his counter-punching and consistency, forcing Nadal to hit one more ball, out-nadaling Nadal, and aggravate those once seemingly invincible but now only too vulnerable legs.

Should de Minaur be playing counter-punching hard court tennis at a high enough level to potentially upset a hard court modified Nadal, the Spaniard will not be short of a plan B. If his knees are holding up, he’ll go toe to toe from the back of the court, playing relentless baseline tennis to out-muscle and out-grind the youngster if he has to even if such a style might scupper his later chances.

Nadal, after all, will do whatever he has to, health permitting, to win.

That do-or-die attitude is an aspect of his game de Minaur himself aspires to, and with Nadal the master, and de Minaur the student, whether this match is a power struggle or a harsh lesson, it’ll be studied and enjoyed by all students of the game.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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