Alex de Minaur has again been left to bemoan one of sport’s old adages – that a good big ‘un will more often than not beat a good little ‘un.
Hoping to become the first Australian to reach the prestigious pre-Wimbledon Queen’s Club Championship final since his old mentor Lleyton Hewitt, de Minaur found the might of Matteo Berrettini too much to cope with in their last-four encounter on Saturday.
“God gave me this body – so it’s not like I’m gonna grow overnight. So I’m just going to have to deal with it,” sighed de Minaur after being overpowered 6-4 6-4 in 82 minutes.
The 22-year-old, 12cm shorter and 25kg lighter than his missile-launching opponent, played a fine, committed match, doing everything to disrupt the rhythm of the Italian whose destructive hitting could wreak serious damage at Wimbledon.
Yet for all his best efforts to get the world No.9 into anything longer than three-shot rallies, the Australian No.1 worked wonders to earn one break point all match, which was summarily blown away by a 137mph serve.
“It’s frustrating because there’s not much you can do about it. It’s what happens when you play a bigger, taller guy. Obviously, it’s gonna happen a lot of times for me in my career,” shrugged de Minaur.
That ‘God-given’ body of his moves like lightning around a tennis court and contains a heart that is as big as anybody’s in the game but Berrettini hit with such ferocity that even a player who’ll fight for every point can end up feeling like a punchbag.
“I think I played a pretty good-level match,” said de Minaur – and he was right, as he was even described by one TV commentator as being “in the nicest way, a cockroach who just won’t go away” as he scuttled to retrieve every ball demonically.
But Berrettini lost just four points when his 36 blistering first serves found the target, always leaving the Sydneysider living off scraps as he sought to follow the great tradition of Aussie winners at Queen’s Club, the last of whom was another ‘lightweight heavyweight’ Hewitt in 2006.
“I think I got unlucky the way I got broken in the first set with a couple shanks and unlucky balls,” shrugged de Minaur, thinking back to the third game of the match.
“Then, I mean, I had one break point (in the second set). He served a bomb. He played really good, didn’t give me those chances,” added the Australian, who’ll next move on to Eastbourne for his final Wimbledon tune-up.
Berrettini will seek to become the first Queen’s Club debutant since Boris Becker in 1985 to win the title when he faces Cameron Norrie on Sunday, after the Briton defeated Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-5 6-3 in the other semi-final.
Berrettini, who’s now gone 30 straight service games without getting broken and sealed his victory over de Minaur with a 140mph ace, has already knocked out two Britons en route to the final – three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray and British No.1 Dan Evans.
Left-hander Norrie reckoned he would have to “have a chat” with Murray about how to handle one of the best serves on the circuit.
“”I know that I have a big weapon with my serve and first shot, so I’m really confident when I go there,” said Berrettini, who gave eventual French Open champion Novak Djokovic a scare in the quarter-finals.