De Minaur topples Johnson, Raonic next
Teenage wildcard Alex De Minaur's impressive win over top-50 player Steve Johnson has set up a second-round encounter with Milos Raonic in Brisbane.
A second-round Brisbane International encounter with former world No.3 Milos Raonic awaits Alex De Minaur after the 18-year-old wildcard’s fighting upset defeat of Steve Johnson.
The teenager, ranked 208 in the world, ground down Johnson in a 7-7(7) 6-4 win built on stoic defence and counter-punching offence at Pat Rafter Arena.
De Minaur rallied from 0-30 and 15-40 in two service games late in the first set to force a tiebreak as world No.44 Johnson looked to impose himself on the match.
The Australian then saved a set point with a last-ditch lunging forehand winner, before coaxing an error out of the frustrated 28-year-old.
Johnson then broke the young Australian to go up 4-3 in the second set but again De Minaur rallied, immediately breaking back, holding to love and then stroking a backhand winner down the line to break again and seal the victory.
“I’m pretty delighted; it’s the best way to finish off the year,” he said, still shaking from adrenaline following the win.
“I played a great match and beat a high-quality opponent, I’m stoked. I showed how I can play today, so now it’s all about maintaining that level.”
The Spanish-raised teenager had already displayed his fighting qualities earlier this year, saving a fourth-set match point to win a five-set thriller against Gerald Melzer in his Australian Open debut.
They were on show again on Sunday; De Minaur constantly pumped his fist in a throwback to a young Lleyton Hewitt, who was watching from the stands.
De Minaur will face fourth seeded Raonic, who won the Brisbane trophy two years ago, on either Tuesday or Wednesday, with the Canadian on the comeback from a 2017 season riddled with injury.
A career-high ranking of No.3 in November 2016 has slipped to No.24 on the ATP world list.
Having won the Australian Open Play-off earlier this month, De Minaur will enter in career best form, and is respectful of Raonic.
“He’s a player that you watch on TV all the time so it’s going to be lots of fun to get out on court and play with him,” he said.
“(The play-off win was a) real boost of confidence and self belief as well. I’m really comfortable with where my game’s at.”
Fellow Australian Matt Ebden will play American Frances Tiafoe on centre court tomorrow, while Jordan Thompson and Ash Barty will feature in the night session.
For Brisbane International tickets and more tournament information, visit brisbaneinternational.com.au.