De Minaur braces for Djokovic challenge in United Cup quarterfinals
Australia will take on Team Serbia at RAC Arena for a place in the United Cup semifinals.
After completing one of his “top-five best matches” to stun Taylor Fritz at RAC Arena, Alex de Minaur accepts he may need to find another gear to spring the upset on Novak Djokovic in the United Cup quarterfinals.
The Australian found his sharpest form to topple world No.10 Fritz en route to Australia’s narrow 2-1 defeat of Team USA on Monday night before a Djokovic-led Serbia sealed a berth on Tuesday with a 2-1 triumph over the Czech Republic.
De Minaur salvaged just five games in his only prior encounter with the world No.1, in the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open.
The stage was set for a rematch before another parochial Australia versus Serbia atmosphere.
“It’s no secret Novak’s level, it’s incredible, and he’s probably the GOAT, if we’re honest,” De Minaur said.
“So, he started the year strong. It’s going to be obviously extremely tough, but it will be a challenge that I’ll be looking forward to, to hopefully going out there and show what I can do.”
Djokovic received treatment on his right wrist during a three-set victory over Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday to level Serbia’s tie with the Czechs, after Olga Danilovic came up narrowly short against Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 3-6 6-3.
Danilovic and Hamad Medjedovic required one set from the deciding mixed doubles against Miriam Kolodziejova and Petr Nouza for Serbia to advance to the quarterfinals.
A 4-6 7-5 [10-8] victory sealed top spot in Group E and a showdown with Australia on Wednesday night in Perth.
“Of course, we are playing a home nation tomorrow, probably packed stadium, which is something that we all are looking forward to,” Djokovic said. “They are very strong, particularly doubles, and also singles, you know, they are very complete…
“We know that if it’s 1-1 after singles we are probably not favourites against anybody, you know, to win the mixed, but we will surely fight till the end.”
Team captain Lleyton Hewitt said Djokovic had hit the ground running at Perth and was playing great tennis from the outset.
“It’d be a true test for Alex. You know, he probably has to step up to the plate and play even better than (on Monday),” Hewitt said.
“But they’re the tests and the challenges he wants. He’s pushing to get in the top 10 in the world. This is where he wants to be. He wants to challenge himself against the best players.”
Ajla Tomljanovic and Danilovic will go head to head in search of their first singles win of this year’s United Cup following two respective losses.
Tomljanovic continued her comeback from ongoing injuries that blighted her 2023 season with a much-improved showing against world No.5 Jessica Pegula on Monday night.
While she succumbed in two tight sets it was a warning to her prospective opponent in Australia’s quarterfinal.
“I think people might underestimate me because they know I haven’t played in a while,” she said.
“I feel like I can still play a pretty good level… I believe in myself but I’m not expecting huge things because I always try to bring myself to the reality of the situation that I haven’t played much.
“It’s still such a process of relearning my body and how I move and my game in a way. It’s almost like a new… chapter, because things are different. They feel different.
“I feel like every day, with every match, I’m learning a lot of what works, what doesn’t.”
West Australians Storm Hunter and Matt Ebden could prove the deciding factor for the hosts’ chances of progressing to the semifinals in Sydney.
They will attempt to land a third straight win of this year’s United Cup when they meet the Serbians.
“To play with Matt, it’s honestly a dream come true, and to get the win (against the US) to give ourselves the opportunity,” Hunter said. “Yeah, this arena is amazing, the fans have been incredible.
“Wednesday hopefully, I think it’s going to be another big crowd, which is awesome. Honestly, that’s why we play tennis, we want to play in these big moments, you know, and representing our country. There’s no greater honour.”