World no. 26 Alex de Minaur was among the players to beat in 2019, winning three ATP titles and cracking the top-20 in the closing stages of the year. Eager for more in the current season, Alex kicked off the 2020 campaign with victories over Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov at the ATP Cup, 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. To make things worse, the youngster had to skip the Australian Open due to an abdominal injury, spending the coronavirus lockdown in Alicante and hoping for a fresh start in August.
De Minaur gathered momentum after the epic clash against Great Britain two days before facing Nadal, throwing everything he had in his arsenal and forcing the world's leading player to dig deep in sets one and two.
Both players served above 70% and Nadal who played better on the first serve while Alex had the advantage on the second.
The Spaniard suffering 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, spraying a forehand error in the first game to get broken at 15 and boosting de Minaur's confidence after a couple of minutes since the first ball they exchanged. 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 a mighty opponent, Rafa served well after that break he suffered, finding the range and dropping six points behind the initial shot in set number two. The pressure was on de Minaur and the youngster couldn't 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, earning four straight breaks to seal the deal and send Spain into the final. "In a way, I was a man on a mission against Rafael Nadal that night, and it slipped away.
It was bittersweet, the feeling," de Minaur said from Alicante. "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."