At the start of 2018, an 18-year-old Alex de Minaur was ranked outside the Top 200, preparing himself to compete in Brisbane and Sydney with invitations in order to gather the experience and see where he stands against the rivals from the Top 50. Instead of being a spectator or an easy obstacle for much higher-ranked rivals, the Sydney native who has been living and training in Spain for years had some other plans, reaching the semi-final in Brisbane and the first ATP final in his hometown of Sydney a week later to grab seven ATP wins and more than 70 ranking positions in just 14 days, setting the tone for the rest of the season that he ended in the top-35 and also as the second youngest player in the top-100 after Denis Shapovalov! De Minaur ended the season with 28 ATP wins, reaching the title match in Washington and also at the NextGen Masters, losing them to Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas but proving himself as one of the players to watch in the years to come.
A former Wimbledon junior runner-up had a chance to make a pro debut at the All England Club this season and he scored wins over Marco Cecchinato and Pierre-Hugues Herbert to set the third round clash against world number 1 Rafael Nadal on Centre Court. The Spaniard scored a 6-1 6-2 6-4 win in just over two hours, outplaying the youngster in sets one and two before a more serious resistance from the Aussie in set number three when he got broken only once.
This was a great experience for de Minaur who says he should be ready for the potential second clash against Rafa if they meet each other in Brisbane in the first week of 2019:
"I definitely needed that experience to play someone like Rafa," de Minaur said. "That was one of those bucket list moments and definitely learned a lot from that.
It sort of got me star-struck at the start and you sort of had to work your way into it, but now I know what to expect and I think I'll be able to do better the next time I play one of the top five guys. Last year I had to come and, due to my ranking, I had to play the wildcard play-offs.
Now I get to have a whole month of pre-season training and it's great because it means more days of me working hard."