London, Great Britain, 1 July 2024 | Vivienne Christie

There’s a powerful sense of community among the 11-strong contingent of Australians who’ll contest the men’s Wimbledon singles draw this fortnight.

With shared coaches, joint practice sessions, collective dinners and some spirited card games in their off-court hours, the tight-knit group can be mates as they strive for individual success.

Few demonstrate that camaraderie better than Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur, who in a quirk of the draw, faces veteran countryman James Duckworth in first round of The Championships.

Originally drawn to face Corentin Moutet, De Minaur is instead preparing for an all-Aussie battle after Duckworth gained a lucky loser spot when the French lefthander withdrew through injury.

It prompted happy memories from De Minaur’s junior years, when the then-teenager would enthusiastically ask a willing Duckworth to allocate time to practice.

“I’ve been so incredibly fortunate with how all of the guys have kind of taken me in when I was really young. I mean, all of them were so nice to me. So receptive,” said De Minaur, noting that Jordan Thompson and the now-retired John Millman and Sam Groth were equally influential at that pivotal development stage.

“It’s been great to be able to improve with them and I just think that’s probably the best way to describe the Aussie culture, right? Bringing each other up is pretty cool.”

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Duckworth has equally fond memories of that time.

“I think the first time I hit with him was February 2015 – I was (ranked) about 105 or 110 in the world, and he was 15 (years old),” the world No.78 Duckworth said.

“He just said to me, ‘I’d love to practise with you as much as you want. As long as you’re here, just let me know when you want to hit and I’ll hit with you.’ And I was like, ‘wow, this guy, he really wants it!’”

“Every session he turned out and just tried his arse off. And he was pretty skinny and light at that stage and didn’t hit a big ball and I was beating him in most points but there was no carry on, he was very mature. And I was super impressed.”

A decade on, Duckworth approaches their high-stakes meeting with enduring respect.

“I love Demon. I just love the way he goes about it. He’s super humble guy, just works extremely hard and is a very good tennis player,” said the 32-year-old, who re-entered the world’s top 100 after a grass-court season that included a quarterfinal appearance in Stuttgart, and progress to the Halle second round as a qualifier.

“His game has evolved a lot over the last couple of years. He’s worked really hard and I’m super pumped for him. I’d say all of us Aussies really look up to him and he’s a great role model for us, for sure.”

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That sentiment is echoed many times by the 11 men who make Australia the second-most represented nation (behind France and Great Britain with 12 and equal to USA with 11) in the Wimbledon 2024 men’s singles field.

Adam Walton and Rinky Hijikata, who will each debut in the main draw, note the success-breeds-success mentality created with world No.9 De Minaur leading the Australian contingent.

“I think Alex is a great role model for all the Australians or everyone who plays tennis. I think he’s the perfect mould. He does the right things. off the court, on the court,” said Walton.

“The positive energy he brings when you’re around him, it’s just impossible to not be a better person when you’re around him. He just brings the best out of everyone.”

Hijikata enthusiastically agrees.

“Obviously Demon’s our No.1 at the moment and he’s kind of paved the way for everyone and I feel like he’s such a good role model to have in that kind of spot in Australian tennis,” the 23-year-old said.

“I think everyone kind of wants to kind of catch up to him and do their best to make a name for themselves. And I feel like he’s been huge and everyone (is) kind of growing in their belief.”

Alexei Popyrin is grateful for the benchmark that De Minaur sets in his own success. “Demon’s a great player,” said the 24-year-old, who at world No.47 is the nation’s No.3 man.

“I known him since I’ve been a little kid … to me, he is the leader of the group, of the Aussie boys and to have someone like him performing the way he is this year is unbelievable.

“He’s comfortably in the top 10 with his level and I played him in Monte Carlo and I could really see why he is and it kind of gave me a big eye-opener to what I have to do to improve to try and get to his space.”

Within that success-breeds-success culture, other Australian men have thrived on grass this year. The top-40 ranked Thompson stunned Holger Rune and Taylor Fritz at Queen’s, while Max Purcell reached a first ATP-level singles final in Eastbourne.

Aleksandar Vukic was a quarterfinalist at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Chris O’Connell is preparing for his Wimbledon return.

All-Aussie encounters aside, there’s no doubt that Australian men are delighted to see each other thrive.

Thanasi Kokkinakis summarised the sentiment as he reflected on Alex Bolt’s dramatic path through the Wimbledon qualifying draw.

“There’s no one more deserving. I love seeing him do well,” said Kokkinakis of his fellow South Australian.

“He’s one of my good mates and I’ve known him forever. We played state teams together, so seeing him having that little resurgence is sick.”

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