MELBOURNE, Australia – Alex De Minaur was about as forlorn as he’s ever been, in his post-match media conference after his “devastating” five-set loss to Andrey Rublev in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
From a commanding position of two sets to one up on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night, the recently-crowned newest member of the ATP’s top 10 had the crowd rocking as he hunted a last eight appearance at his home Slam.
But Rublev, seeded fifth in Melbourne, was able to find another gear, playing lights-out tennis in the fourth and fifth sets to show the Australian there remains a gap between perennial fourth-round players, and those who can go one, two, or three steps further and win a Grand Slam.
“Maybe in the past I would have been somewhat content with a fourth round, but I thought I had more in me. It is a bit disappointing,” De Minaur said following the loss.
It’s the 24-year-old’s third successive stumble at the fourth round in Melbourne. Disappointing, from De Minaur’s perspective, as he was the 32nd seed here in 2022, the 22nd seed here in 2023, and the 10th seed this year.
His ranking, and overall play, had been improving, but he’s been unable to break through into the last eight. Coming into the Australian Open, De Minaur was in hot form. At the United Cup, he beat then-world No. 10 Taylor Fritz, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and world No. 6 Alexander Zverev in consecutive outings.
This was on the back of leading Australia to a Davis Cup final late last year, at which he fell to Jannik Sinner, now world No. 4.
“In due time I’ll take the three top-10 wins at United Cup, I’ll take it as confidence. Even this match, I’m playing some great tennis,” he said.
Stepping back a touch, a fourth-round appearance from a 10th ranked player is about par. Seedings would say it’s the top eight players who — all things equal — make the quarterfinals, though, as always with tennis and Grand Slams in particular, nothing is guaranteed.
Even still, you can tell from the Australian’s demeanour that he believes he belongs at the top…