Like a speed demon: De Minaur advances in style

Here we go again: Alex de Minaur is in the Australian Open’s last 16 for the second straight year.

Australia’s second-ranked man, the No.22 seed in this year’s tournament, has made the same stage at Wimbledon and the US Open, even pushing into a quarter-final in New York in the COVID-weakened 2020 draw.

Alex de Minaur proved too good for Benjamin Bonzi on Saturday.Credit:Eddie Jim

The 23-year-old second coming of Lleyton Hewitt beat another Frenchman ranked in the 40s on Saturday, Benjamin Bonzi, in a 7-6 (7-0), 6-2, 6-1 cakewalk that backed up his trickier four-set defeat of Adrian Mannarino.

“I’m very happy. I can’t lie,” de Minaur said on Rod Laver Arena afterwards. “As a kid, this is what you train for; to be playing on that court in front of you guys, on the biggest stages in the world.

″⁣Every time I get out here I have to pinch myself, and I just enjoy what I do each day, so thank you guys for making it so special.”

Bonzi upset 14th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in five sets in the previous round, so he is no chump, but offered little beyond token resistance – especially in the second and third sets – to the NSW terrier, who scampered across the court with his usual fanaticism.

Alex de Minaur is into the fourth round of the Australian Open.Credit:Eddie Jim

The first set against de Minaur was at least competitive, but even then, the Australian twice went up a break, including serving for a one-set lead at 5-3, only to hand the break back.

The ensuing tie-breaker, which de Minaur raced through without dropping a single point, was a sign of things to come as he dominated the match thereafter.

Before Mannarino, it was 209th-ranked Taiwanese qualifier Yu-hsiou Hsu. It is suddenly about to get a lot harder, as it almost always does as this stage of a grand slam.

Benjamin Bonzi was unable to match the Australian.Credit:Eddie Jim

Next up will be nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, in what would be a first meeting between the pair, or former top-10 star Grigor Dimitrov, who has reached the semi-finals at three of the four slams, including in Australia.

One of those options is clearly more appealing than the other, even if a left hamstring issue has left Djokovic a tad laboured, with de Minaur set to keep an eye on that match, as well as fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin’s clash with American Ben Shelton later Saturday.

“I am going to have my popcorn ready,” de Minaur said. “It’s going to be a hell of a match. Both Novak and Grigor are a hell of a competitor, so I will be switching between channels, for sure.

“I’m out here, playing against the best, and I’m just excited. It’s another chance to go out here, play against the best in the world and show what I’m made of.”

De Minaur finally claimed his maiden top-five scalp in November – at his 19th attempt – when he upset Russia’s Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Masters, but he quickly followed up with a three-set takedown of Rafael Nadal at this month’s United Cup.

Armed with all-time confidence, he then declared in the days before the Australian Open that his next goal was to break into the top 10, having been as high as No.15.

“As the person I am, as the player I am, I’m not satisfied where I am right now, so I want to keep improving and, for me, that’s [top 10] the next step, and it’s just about getting there now,” de Minaur said.

“I’m feeling great, playing some great tennis, feeling mentally fresh [and] physically fresh … this year I feel a bit better than I did the year before.

“I think I’ve always had the level to beat these guys, but now it’s the belief, after getting a few of those breakthrough wins, it’s very much possible and doable every week … I know that I can take it to these top guys.”

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