6 January 2024 | Andrew Eichenholz

One of the stories of the United Cup has been Australia’s surge to the semi-finals, led by Alex de Minaur. The Australian thrilled his home fans by upsetting World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Perth.

Now in Sydney, De Minaur will try to replicate his success inside Ken Rosewall Arena, which historically has been his favourite court. Its namesake, International Tennis Hall of Famer Ken Rosewall, has been impressed by De Minaur’s rise.

“Alex has all the necessary parts of the game that’s going to improve and he’s shown that certainly in the past 12 months,” Rosewall told ATPTour.com.

“His game has kind of come up to another level, with some good wins that he’s had more recently, and just how well he’s playing. The little bit of extra confidence that he’s put in his game to give him some more variation is certainly making him one of the new players and one of the strong players of the men’s circuit.”

De Minaur is No. 11 in the ATP Live Rankings and will crack the Top 10 if he defeats Alexander Zverev on Saturday evening.

“He deserves it because he’s worked hard and I think if he gets that high a ranking, if he doesn’t get it today or tomorrow it’s going to come soon enough because he is that good a player,” Rosewall said. “His gradual improvement is going to help him be one of the top players.”

One similarity De Minaur and Rosewall share is their stature. Rosewall was referred to as “Muscles” because of his lack of them. De Minaur stands 183 centimetres tall, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of the best players in the world.

“Size helps. I mean, there’s certainly parts of this game of tennis that it helps big players, 6’3″ or 6’5″, [like] service motions. It’s a great part of their game where they get many easy points because of their great serving motion,” Rosewall said. “But look, Alex’s serve is not weak by any stretch of the imagination. And I think he’s gained more confidence in his serving ability with the rest of his game.

“He’s a six-footer. He’s not small. The surface that most of the tournaments are played on now are high-bouncing surfaces. But Alex is that type of an athlete where he can move so well. Not that he has any out-standing weaknesses at all, but maybe a bit of height would help. But I don’t think it’s necessary for him to be the best player in the world.”

Team competition often brings the best out of De Minaur. In 2020 he pushed Rafael Nadal in a memorable three-setter at the ATP Cup and one year ago he defeated the Spanish lefty at the United Cup.

“I think he enjoys playing in Australia,” Rosewall said. “I think he’s very enthusiastic to be with the Australian boys and they all get along well together even though they have to play each other every now and then. But Alex is good to get along with and certainly very popular.”

It is fitting that De Minaur has the opportunity to crack the Top 10 at Ken Rosewall Arena, where in 2018 he reached his first ATP Tour final as the No. 167 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The following year he claimed his maiden tour-level crown on the same court.

“I suppose I’m lucky that he’s done well playing here,” Rosewall said. “He’s said many times that he likes the surface, likes the court, likes the stadium. So if it helps him play well, that’s good. I appreciate him saying some nice comments about the stadium.”

What does Rosewall believe it will take for De Minaur to take even another step and reach the very top of the sport?

“I think it’ll just come in time. He’s shown that he’s playing better and getting better results, really good results, with a bit more variation in his game,” Rosewall said. “It’s easy for me to say, ‘Well, you’ve got to get more variation’, but there are so many good players around that you have to be in good form all the time to retain and keep your ranking.”

Story republished with the permission of atptour.com