'I was on a mission against Rafael Nadal,' Alex de Minaur recalls



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'I was on a mission against Rafael Nadal,' Alex de Minaur recalls

The young Aussie Alex de Minaur was among the players to beat two seasons ago, winning three ATP titles and cracking the top-20 in the closing stages of the year. Alex kicked off the 2020 campaign with victories over Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov at the ATP Cup at home in Australia before giving 120% against world no.

1 Rafael Nadal in the semis. Alex had the upper hand in the opening two sets and still suffered a heartbreaking 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 loss in two hours and 13 minutes. De Minaur gathered momentum after the epic clash against Great Britain two days before facing Nadal and threw everything he had in his arsenal to force the world's leading player to dig deep in sets one and two.

Both players served above 70%, and Nadal played better on the first serve while Alex had the advantage on the second.

Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur battled at the last year's ATP Cup.

The Spaniard suffered two breaks from only three chances offered to the Aussie, delivering four (three in the decider) on the other side to cross the finish line first.

It was the worst start for world no. 1, who sprayed a forehand error in the first game to get broken at 15 and boost de Minaur's confidence. Alex never put a foot wrong, staying aggressive and controlling the pace in his games to take the opener 6-4 following a forehand down the line winner in the tenth game.

Having to give his best to stay in touch with an inspired opponent, Rafa dropped six points behind the initial shot in set number two and challenged Alex to repeat those numbers. The youngster could not survive until the tie break, sending a backhand long in game 12 to hand the set to Rafa, who gained a massive boost.

With the drive on his side, Nadal took 14 of the first 15 points in the decider and earned four straight breaks to seal the deal and send Spain into the final against Serbia. "In a way, I was a man on a mission against Rafael Nadal that night, and it slipped away.

It was bittersweet, the feeling. But it also taught me a lot. It showed a different side of my game and a side not many people expected or thought I had. It was good to prove I'm versatile enough to come out swinging if I need to.

Let's say it's been haunting me for a while now. I'm trying to leave it in the past, but it was a very tough blow. I mean, you do all the preseason, all the hard work to try and put on the best possible show you can in front of your home fans.

That was very disappointing, and obviously, this whole situation didn't help. The shutdown has been a very tough blow, but I've tried to put it in the past and use it as motivation and find confidence in the way I was playing. Hopefully, I can pick up where I left off," Alex de Minaur said.