Alex de Minaur
Alex de Minaur says a lot of his improvement comes down to self belief. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Rafter backs de Minaur as the real deal ahead of Open

January 8, 2024

Tennis great Pat Rafter believes the hype for Alex de Minaur is real and that the top home hope can reach the Australian Open final.

Excitement is growing as de Minaur enters the season-opening grand slam boasting United Cup wins over Taylor Fritz, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev.

The three prized scalps have catapulted the 24-year-old into the world top 10 for the first time ahead of the Melbourne Park major starting on Sunday.

Former world No.1 Rafter sat down with de Minaur last year when he was looking for ways to turn his five fourth-round and solitary quarter-final major appearances into something more.

Pat Rafter
 Pat Rafter believes Alex de Minaur is ready to challenge at the business end of grand slams. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS 

Two-time US Open champion Rafter, who lost two Wimbledon finals and reached the final four in Melbourne once, reckons de Minaur has finally figured it out.

“The match he played against Zverev, I thought, hang on, this kid’s starting to really get it,” Rafter told AAP.

“To beat Zverev when he’s at his top and now he’s top 10.

“To only reach one quarter by now, that surprises me.

“I thought he would have done better than that and I think that starts now, semis, finals, definitely.”

It’s a marker de Minaur is determined to reach.

“That will be the dream, that’s for sure,” he said in Melbourne on Monday.

“All the work that I put in, ultimately it comes down to performing at the slams and going deep at the slams. 

“That’s been a goal of mine for a while now, trying to push in, push second week of slams and deep end of these tournaments and it’s exactly where I want to be. 

“I’ve had a great prep and hopefully I can show the same level I have when the tournament starts.

“Not just to do it in two-set matches, to bring it for a whole four, five hours if need be.”

De Minaur has been fuelled by doubters who say he hasn’t got the weaponry to compete with the sport’s very best.

But Rafter doesn’t think de Minaur’s strides have been made by him getting any stronger.

“If anything he’s probably just become a fraction more patient,” he said.

“He’s backing himself a bit more. Not making as many mistakes, backing himself a bit more to stay in rallies.

“Alex has tried to step up and hit the ball really hard, really big.

“I think he just needed to take that step back and be a fraction more patient.”

Alex de Minaur
 Alex de Minaur’s United Cup win over world No.6 Alexandra Zverev was revealing for Pat Rafter. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

Hard-working de Minaur puts his latest rise down to his “mentality and mindset”.

“Of course, I’ve added little improvements here and there to my game,” he said.

“I’ve gotten a little bit stronger. I’m playing a little bit more aggressive, with a bit more variety. 

“But ultimately, a lot is belief: believing in myself, believing that I am good enough to beat these guys and proving it.”

De Minaur leads a pack of 10 Australians inside the world’s top 111, a feat not matched since eight Aussies including Rafter finished 1998 inside the top 100.

That year Rafter, Mark Philippoussis, Jason Stoltenberg, Richard Fromberg, Scott Draper, Andrew Ilie, Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge were all inside the world’s top 60.

“We felt it and we had so much fun; these guys don’t know how much fun we had,” Rafter said.

“We looked after each other, pushed each other.”