De Minaur earns crack at Sinner in Rotterdam final

Ian Chadband |

Alex de Minaur celebrating an ideal birthday present by earning a place in the Rottterdam final.
Alex de Minaur celebrating an ideal birthday present by earning a place in the Rottterdam final.

Alex de Minaur has earned the perfect 25th birthday present, booking a place in the final of the Rotterdam Open with an emphatic revenge win over Grigor Dimitrov.

At the same event on de Minaur’s birthday in 2023, Bulgaria’s Dimitrov proved a veritable party pooper by knocking out the Australian No.1 in the quarter-finals.

But ‘Demon’ avenged that narrow defeat emphatically in the Rotterdam Ahoy arena in Saturday’s (Sunday AEDT) semi-final with a 6-4 6-3 win that has set him up with a final against Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner.

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner awaits Alex de Minaur in the Rotterdam final. (EPA PHOTO)

Back in tournament action for the first time since his Melbourne Park triumph, top seed and world No.4 Sinner downed home favourite Tallon Griekspoor 6-2 6-4 in the later semi.

De Minaur’s win has ensured he will rise to a career-high No.9 in the world rankings next week from his current position of 11.

He had already avenged his painful Australian Open last-16 defeat by downing Andrey Rublev 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

“I’m extremely happy with the level throughout the whole match,” a delighted de Minaur said after beating Dimitrov.

“It was probably one of the better matches I’ve played from start to finish. Even saying that, I always know that Grigor is going to lift his level and compete until the end, and I had to fight off some pretty tough break points, when I came up with some of my best tennis.”

De Minaur crashed 14 winners and made just four unforced errors in his impressive 84-minute march.

“From the word go here in Rotterdam, I’ve felt a very calm presence. I’ve felt positive, I’ve been calm and collected throughout whole matches, and I think that’s been a big key for me,” added de Minaur, who is also competing in his first tournament since the Australian Open.

The Sydneysider puts his improved form down to a stronger mentality that’s beginning to harden him in matches against the very best players, a tungsten streak that the last Aussie to win in Rotterdam 20 years ago, Lleyton Hewitt, also had.

It’s no coincidence that de Minaur has been working so closely of late with his Davis Cup captain Hewitt, and he explained after the Dimitrov win: “This is my standard now, this is what I’ve got to bring every single time I walk on the court. 

“I think I made a big step in the right direction, showing the type of tennis I can play, week in, week out. I think I’ve raised the bar a little bit and hopefully there’s plenty more to go.”

But Sinner is the acid test for him. If any player could give the Australian an inferiority complex, it’s his 22-year-old Italian foe, who’s won all six of their matches and lost just one set since they first duelled in the ATP NextGen finals in 2019.