De Minaur, Tomljanovic to hit ground running against GB
Alex de Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic will spearhead Australia's United Cup singles clashes, but mind games over a mixed doubles pairing are only ramping up.
The pre-clash jibes between Alex de Minaur and Katie Boulter show no signs of abating despite the Australian announcing he is unlikely to feature against his off-court partner in the mixed doubles on Friday.
On the eve of Australia’s opening showdown against Great Britain at RAC Arena, De Minaur only fuelled Boulter’s assertion that his announcement was more mind games than a binding declaration.
“Well, you never know until you sign on the dotted line, come that mixed,” De Minaur said. “I could be an option. I have played mixed in the past … with Katie. So I know all her weaknesses.
“I’ve watched enough of her matches to know the spots to be attacking. But yeah, if we step out on court, it’s just all business.”
John Millman, competing in his final Australian summer of tennis, warned his teammate such talk of weaknesses could have wider-reaching implications after Boulter earlier suggested the announcement was “a double bluff”.
“My missus doesn’t have any weaknesses. That’s pretty brave of you to say that,” Millman said. “You’re in trouble. (Alex) might be sleeping on the pullout in my room tonight.”
Determined to walk the talk in his singles before he shifts his focus to the Australian Open, De Minaur faces two tricky opponents in arguably the toughest group at this year’s United Cup.
He begins against world No.18 Cameron Norrie on Friday before a likely meeting with world No.10 Taylor Fritz on Monday.
Norrie claimed a win over Australia’s leading singles charge during last year’s United Cup group stage in Sydney, but the result was reversed at Toronto where the Australian went on to reach his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final in August.
The Brit accepted considerable ground had to be covered whatever the outcome on Friday.
“I always have tough matches with Alex. We both know each other pretty well,” Norrie said.
“We practice with each other a lot … I think we’re all looking forward to taking it to Australia. I think it’s going to be pretty interesting to see if Katie actually supports me or not in the match.”
Optimistic at starting a new season in form, following her title run in Brazil in early December, Tomljanovic has an opportunity to carry that momentum into her opening stoush against Boulter before a likely meeting with world No.5 Jessica Pegula on Monday.
It presents a chance to help bury the demons after having missed the entire 2023 Australian summer of tennis due to a knee injury.
“I think the month of January is always the month I want to do my best,” she said. “That’s never changed.
“Having a bit of time off just makes me more motivated and I think I’ve played Katie a few times, last time on grass, if I’m not mistaken. But she’s coming off her best year.
“It’s going to be a really tough match. She’s got a big game, but yeah, I’m just looking forward to getting out there and doing my best.”
Inevitably drawn into the pre-clash sledging, Tomljanovic delivered a subtle reminder of the depth in her team.
Given Australia boasts two top-five doubles players in world No.1 Storm Sanders and world No.4 Matt Ebden, as well as world No.17 Ellen Perez, the 30-year-old expects De Minaur will be left to focus solely on his singles.
“Alex will do his thing first, and then that will be enough,” she quipped.