A “devastated” Alex de Minaur is out of the Australian Open after letting his chance to reach the quarter-finals for the first time slip in a dramatic five-set capitulation to world No.5 Andrey Rublev.
The local hope fought back from losing the first set to snag a two-sets-to-one lead at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday and appeared destined to kick on as a frustrated and emotional Rublev waged a verbal war on himself.
But a brilliant Rublev came home with a wet sail to level proceedings then, as de Minaur crumbled, put the foot down in the fifth set to win 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-0.
There are no Australians left in either singles after de Minaur’s third consecutive fourth-round exit at his home slam.
“I’m sitting here and I’m absolutely devastated because I saw it as a great opportunity and a match that I strongly believed I could have won,” said a shattered ‘Demon’.
“It’s a tough, tough match to finish up my campaign here. Obviously, had aspirations for more. Yeah, my time here was cut short.
“Andrey deserved the win. He played too good in the fourth and fifth sets. He kind of, in my eyes, just let go and started swinging freely, caught a little purple patch. Yeah, it was too good in the end.”
After prevailing in the longest match of his career (four hours and 14 minutes), Rublev will face world No.4 Jannik Sinner in his 10th attempt at reaching a slam semi-final.
“I started to tell to myself, “you’re going to die today but you will do everything” (in the fourth set), Rublev said.
“And somehow I started to play better and better and I found more energy and I was able to win.
“He’s so fast and the way he move with his legs, the speed was crazy. He was super-tough to play, four hours and I’m just happy to be in a quarter-final.
“I was trying not to think about it (the pain), I was just trying to push myself, I was going to do everything I could – don’t cry, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Stop these things and keep fighting.
“Better not to be inside my head. It’s like a scary movie, a lot of emotions.”
Rublev claimed the first set when de Minaur double-faulted on set point.
The world No.5 barely missed a beat early in the second set but de Minaur hung in to take it to a tiebreak.
Then the Australian kicked into overdrive, pulling off an audacious shot around the net when trailing 2-1 to draw level, and converting his second set point with a brilliant lob.
De Minaur raced away to a 3-0 lead in the third set as Rublev grew increasingly frustrated.
The 24-year-old got shaky when serving for the set and let the opportunity slip, and Rublev saved a second set point on serve to force a tie break.
De Minaur claimed the tiebreak, and a two-sets-to-one advantage with a wonderful passing shot.
But Rublev almost immediately seized control of the fourth set, racing away then claiming it.
He kicked into another gear in the decider, leaving de Minaur to rue what might have been.