Alex de Minaur has won the fifth ATP title of his career, coming from a set down to earn a thrilling 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) victory over Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the Eastbourne International final.
The victory, earned the hard way after two hours and 40 minutes of high-quality tennis on the grass of Devonshire Park on Saturday, was the perfect tonic for Australia’s No 1 as he targets a deep run at Wimbledon, which begins on Monday.
“If you want to beat Lorenzo, you have to play your best tennis,” de Minaur, 22, told the crowd after winning his first grass-court tournament.
“It’s a lot of relief, a lot of excitement. It’s been a long week, I’ve played some great tennis and managed to pull through with a very tough win today,” he said. “Hopefully, I can keep it going through Wimbledon – I can’t wait,” added de Minaur, who will play young American Sebastian Korda in the first round on Monday.
It was a victory that particularly pleased de Minaur as he had to force himself to go on the offensive after he had given up the first set with an uncharacteristically tame service game at 4-5 that allowed the Italian world No 27 to cash in.
The Aussie regrouped with an early break at the start of the second which was the key to him levelling the match.
Yet when a tight contest, which reached its crescendo with some terrific rallies near the end of the deciding set, came down to the deciding tiebreak, de Minaur was the one to go on the attack.
“I had to pull through all the mental strength I had to win that match,” he said “I had to tell myself to try to be a bit more aggressive and go to win it, not just wait there for him to lose it – because he was definitely not going to do that.”
At 5-5 in the tiebreak, he was given a time violation warning by the chair umpire Fergus Murphy, but it did distract de Minaur as he then played an assured point on serve and again attacked on match point before putting away a victorious smash.
“It’s given me exactly what I wanted to do this week – play some great tennis and get ready for Wimby,” said de Minaur, who now has a grass-court title to go with his four hard-court crowns and will move to a career-high top-15 place on Monday.
“But though I’ve had an unbelievable week here, I have to switch the mindset real quick to Wimby.
“Korda’s a hell of a player. He’s been showing that he can play on every surface and especially lately on grass, he’s been putting together some very high quality wins and it’s going to be an incredibly tough match.”
Sonego, who dedicated his performance to his grandmother – “my best fan” – who died two weeks ago, reckoned that de Minaur could go far at Wimbledon following the Aussie’s quarter-final at Stuttgart and a semi-final appearance at Queen’s Club last week.
“He has a good chance at Wimbledon because if the courts are faster like this, it’s better for him because he returns so good,” said Sonego. “He plays so good on grass, he can have a really good tournament at Wimbledon for sure.”