de Minaur
Alex de Minaur hails his memorable triumph over Germany's Alexander Zverev in the United Cup. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

De Minaur downs Zverev but Aussies out of United Cup

George Clarke January 7, 2024

Alex de Minaur has added Alexander Zverev to his growing list of summer giant killings, with the come-from-behind victory netting the Australian a place in the top 10 of the ATP rankings for the first time in his career.

But Australia’s United Cup campaign ended at Ken Rosewall Arena on Saturday as defeats in the women’s singles and mixed doubles allowed Germany to make the final against Poland with their 2-1 victory.

De Minaur’s dazzling pre-Australian Open form, though, continued to be the talk of tennis as he triumphed 5-7 6-3 6-4 against world No.6 Zverev.

The victory over the reigning Olympic champion adds to an impressive week for the Australian No.1, who claimed a drought-breaking win over 24-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic and thwarted big-hitting American Taylor Fritz.

Kerber
 Angelique Kerber earned the first singles win on her comeback after a maternity break. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

It ensured the fervour surrounding de Minaur will only ramp up further ahead of this month’s grand slam in Melbourne.

De Minaur will enter the tournament as the first Australian men’s player since Lleyton Hewitt in 2006 to be ranked among the world’s top 10.

“It’s what I’ve worked so hard for, it’s another milestone,” de Minaur said.

“But the job’s not done… we keep improving, we keep working – it’s going to be a fun Aussie summer.”

De Minaur’s win squared the tie after Angelique Kerber had beaten Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7).

But Germany claimed the decisive mixed doubles encounter, Zverev and Laura Siegemund requiring a marathon 28-point match tiebreak to eventually edge Matt Ebden and world No.1 Storm Hunter 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (2-7) [15-13].

Zverev loomed as another acid test of de Minaur’s credentials after his wins over Djokovic and Fritz.

The German boasted a 6-1 head-to-head record against the Australian No.1 prior to Saturday’s meeting and things looked to be going to script when he got a break late in the first set and ground out an assured early lead.

Tomljanovic
 Australian Ajla Tomljanovic came off worse at the end of her marathon battle with Kerber. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

Far from intimidated, de Minaur dug in, the 24-year-old Australian surviving an 11-minute battle to hold serve at 2-2 in the second set before breaking Zverev and squaring the match.

With his confidence emboldened, de Minaur broke Zverev straight away and held on for victory.

“I got out of jail in the second set and the whole momentum changed and got behind me, I just tried to ride the wave,” de Minaur said.

His calmness under pressure was in direct contrast to Tomljanovic, who earlier on Saturday had slumped to a loss at the hands of returning three-time grand slam champion Kerber.

The Australian was in cruise control through the opening set but imploded in the second, eventually recovering to secure a tiebreak in the third.

Tomljanovic had two match points, but Kerber kept a cool head and then ruthlessly sealed victory in over two-and-a-half hours.

It was Kerber’s first win in singles tennis since returning from the birth of her first child.

“Ajla played amazingly and we were both on a high level,” the German said.

“It’s my first singles win since coming back and it’s a great feeling.

“Coming out and having such a tough battle and it means a lot to have a match like this before going to the Australian Open.”