Alex de Minaur makes winning start at Roland Garros
Alex de Minaur defeats Ilya Ivashka in a successful start to his seventh main-draw campaign at Roland Garros.
Trademark speed, characteristic determination and thrilling touch all featured as Alex de Minaur made a winning start to his seventh main-draw campaign at Roland Garros.
But mostly, it was business-like efficiency as the 18th seeded De Minaur overcame Ilya Ivashka in four sets.
De Minaur required two hours and 45 minutes to claim a 6-1 5-7 6-1 6-3 win over his world No.73 opponent, which sees the Australian through to the second round of the clay-court major for a third time.
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While Roland Garros has statistically proven to be De Minaur’s most challenging Grand Slam setting, the 24-year-old Sydneysider quickly showed his comfort on the Parisian clay in 2023.
De Minaur gained early control in the Court 6 encounter, claiming a first break of serve to take a 2-1 lead, and winning five straight games to secure the 31-minute first set.
Having saved three break points late in the first set, De Minaur experienced a first blip with a dropped service game early in the second set.
The Australian instantly recovered but there was a bigger challenge as Ivashka found his rhythm, the Belarusian fighting back as De Minaur served for a two-set lead. Winning four straight games, Ivashka levelled the match with his first ace.
A reset was immediate for the determined 24-year-old, De Minaur successfully navigating some extended rallies – ending some with cleverly disguised drop shots, others with perfectly placed lobs – throughout the third set.
Improved serving also featured as De Minaur took control over Ivashka, the Australian never seriously troubled throughout the remaining two sets.
De Minaur finished with 35 winners, including six aces. Converting 10 of his 21 break opportunities against Ivashka, he saved nine of 13 break points he faced.
“(There was a) tiny lapse in concentration,” he conceded of the missed second set opportunity.
“But I was able to kind of get my head back where it needed to be and play the tennis I needed to play to get the win today. Happy with that.”
The emphatic recovery points to De Minaur’s growing confidence at Roland Garros, where he has claimed only two match wins in his six previous appearances.
“My record here, I haven’t played probably my best tennis,” he admitted.
“To be honest, I think it’s more on clay. You know, the first couple years of my career, I struggled to find my feet a little bit, but I think that’s really changed as of late.
“Last year I really felt like I found myself on this surface, and I was able to play some good, high quality matches, and felt quite comfortable.”
The accomplished performance provides De Minaur with a welcome boost ahead of a second-round meeting with Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who advanced when Brit Jack Draper retired with injury.
“I feel like I can take it to anybody,” the Australian added, having learned from a five-set loss to Hugo Gaston in last year’s opening round.
There’s further confidence from satisfying recent progress for world No.19 De Minaur, who claimed a personal-best 47 match wins on tour last year.
He launched his 2023 season with victory over world No.2 Rafael Nadal at the United Cup in Sydney and went on to claim the biggest of his seven ATP singles titles in Acapulco.
It points to some pleasing possibilities as De Minaur, the No.1 Australian, joins several countrymen in Roland Garros’ second round.
However, Alexei Popyrin and Chris O’Connell both bowed out in the opening round.
Popyrin, a junior champion at Roland Garros in 2017, extended former world No.14 Aslan Karatsev for almost three hours before going down 6-3 6-7(4) 6-1 6-2, and an injury hampered O’Connell lost to Japan’s Taro Daniel in straight sets.
Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson will meet in a first-round match on day three, ensuring at least four Australian men will advance to the second round.
It marks the best performance by Australian men at Roland Garros since 2000, when five progressed to the second round.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can be competitive week in and week out,” De Minaur noted.
“I think as soon as they kind of get in this kind of situation every week, they will realise that they belong here. Once that happens, then we’re going to have strength in numbers. That’s for sure.”
Aussies in action – Roland Garros
Men’s singles, first round
 Alex de Minaur (AUS) d Ilya Ivashka 6-1 5-7 6-1 6-3
Taro Daniel (JPN) d Chris O’Connell (AUS) 6-0 6-2 6-4
[Q] Aslan Karatsev d Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-3 6-7(4) 6-1 6-2
Men’s singles, first round
Max Purcell (AUS) v Jordan Thompson (AUS)
Women’s singles, second round
[Q] Storm Hunter (AUS) v Elina Svitolina (UKR)
Men’s singles, second round
 Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Tomas Martin Etcheverry (ARG)
Jason Kubler (AUS) v Fabio Fognini (ITA)
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
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