MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Local favorite Alex de Minaur defeated Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4 6-2 on the back of some scintillating tennis at the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday to advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open in his career.
De Minaur’s win brightened up a bleak day for the host nation at Melbourne Park after Australians Christopher O’Connell and Maddison Inglis were eliminated.
In the presence of Australian greats Rod Laver and Lleyton Hewitt, 22-year-old De Minaur mixed his signature defensive baseline strategy with plenty of approach shots on the net to advance in just over two hours.
“It’s pretty exciting to play for Rod Laver himself here at the Rod Laver Arena at 7pm. I got the win, so what more can I ask for,” De Minaur said in an on-court interview after his second win on the main showcourt of the tournament.
“It’s definitely not Sydney yet… but I love playing here. The atmosphere is electric, there is no place I would rather be. I’m in my house, so I’m doing what I love, I’m living the dream,” added the 22-year-old, who was born in Sydney.
The duo traded breaks in the first two games of the match, but 32nd seed De Minaur took advantage of another break point at 3-3 with a powerful forehand winner propped up the local fans and urged him to serve out the set.
The contrasting styles of play made for long and intense rallies with 35-year-old gravel specialist Andujar against the lively De Minaur, who was always on the move.
But the Australian was patient, carrying Andujar down and grasping for opportunities to approach the net, where he won 18 points in the match.
De Minaur broke 1-1 in the second and as his confidence grew, so did the number of approach shots, while Andujar also applauded his tenacity on a 5-3 chase on the baseline.
Although the boisterous crowds were firmly behind local hopes this year, they applauded Andujar as he hit a fierce winner down the line at 5-2 in the third, with the Spaniard giving a wry smile as he took in the applause.
Andujar had saved set points in the first two sets, but after a double break in the third, De Minaur made no mistake serving for the match, shooting two aces before the Spaniard lost the match on an unforced foul.
The win saws a last-16 clash with 11th-seeded Jannik Sinner, who defeated Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel in four sets.
“A lot of firepower, he’s a great player,” De Minaur said of the Italian. “I’m just looking forward to another chance to come here and do what I love.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Ken Ferris)