Alex de Minaur will shift his attention to this month’s Davis Cup Finals after narrowly missing the chance to leapfrog Nick Kyrgios and become Australia’s top-ranked player.
A day after upsetting Daniil Medvedev for his first top-five scalp from 19 tries, de Minaur fell 6-3 7-6(7-5) to American Frances Tiafoe in the round of 16 at the Paris Masters after serving for the second set.
The 23-year-old Sydneysider has re-established himself near the top of the men’s game this year after a debilitating bout of Covid-19 derailed his 2021 season.
de Minaur made the last 16 at the Australian Open and Wimbledon – where he suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Cristian Garin from two sets up – the Barcelona and Eastbourne semi-finals and won the Atlanta Open for a second time.
Those results contributed to him rallying from a season-low ranking of 42 in mid-January to a top-20 return and eventually his current No.25.
de Minaur is also unbeaten this year in four Davis Cup singles matches, where he has spearheaded Australia in Kyrgios’ continued absence.
The Medvedev triumph sees him clear a significant career hurdle against elite rivals, even if he acknowledged the time of year might have helped his cause.
de Minaur held two match points in a three-set loss to world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, then ranked 11th, in the Barcelona semi-finals in April after beating top-10 star Cameron Norrie in his previous match.
But he was 0-18 against top-five opponents until he overcame Medvedev.
“It’s a good one to get, for sure,” de Minaur said.
“It’s the end of the year, everyone’s a bit tired, but I’m very proud of my performance. I just played very smart.
“I knew it was going to be a chess match out there, both baiting each other to be aggressive, but you also didn’t want to be too aggressive at times.
“It was an absolute battle and I’m very happy I was able to come out on top.”
Whether or not that victory can drive him to greater heights remains to be seen but his first priority is extending Australia’s Davis Cup run under Lleyton Hewitt.
Thanasi Kokkinakis will be the country’s other singles player and Wimbledon champions Matt Ebden and Max Purcell the doubles pairing for the Finals in Malaga, Spain, between November 22 and 27.
Australia must defeat Netherlands to qualify for a semi-final shot at Croatia or Spain, with one of Italy, United States, Germany or Canada to be waiting in the final.
“Alex has had a fantastic Davis Cup record this year. He’s played some of his best tennis in Davis Cup,” Hewitt said.
“He’s gone from strength-to-strength in this competition over the last few years.”