Stars aligning for de Minaur in Paris as Zverev awaits

Ian Chadband |

The stars appear to be aligning nicely for Alex de Minaur at the French Open.
The stars appear to be aligning nicely for Alex de Minaur at the French Open.

The stars may be aligning for Alex de Minaur in Paris with everything falling into place to hand the Australian potentially a dream opportunity at the French Open.

An exhausting early-hours, eve-of-match finish for his quarter-final opponent Alexander Zverev on Tuesday, then the bombshell of champion Novak Djokovic’s injury withdrawal, has opened up a tantalising path for de Minaur not just to a maiden semi-final, but even to the final itself.

And with the great Djokovic, a potentially unassailable semi-final hurdle, out of the picture, de Minaur knows his last-four opponent would be Casper Ruud, a player he’s beaten twice and never lost to, should he defeat Zverev in a match that’s now been promoted to Wednesday’s prime time night spot on Court Philippe Chatrier. 

Alexander Zverev has had an almighty slog to make the French Open quarter-final. (AP PHOTO)

While de Minaur was already abed, doubtless still dreaming of his finest win in the French Open last-16 over Daniil Medvedev, Zverev was being detained until 1.40am in an epic five-setter with Holger Rune.

Rolling up wearily for press at 2.30am in Tuesday’s early hours, the German Olympic champion reflected how he had played two nerve-shredding five-setters in his last two rounds which, alone, kept him on court for over eight hours.

How damaging was it, probably only getting to bed at about 5am, on the eve of his match against a buoyant de Minaur, AAP asked Zverev.

“I’ll survive,” the German said, with a rueful grin. “Look, I’m a lot happier to be in the tournament at 3am, than to be out of it at 3pm.

“Right now I’m a little bit tired I have to say, but extremely happy to escape, still be in the tournament.”

Zverev has cut a resilient figure in Paris, seemingly inured to the distraction of a trial going on back home in Berlin where he’s accused of causing bodily harm to an ex-partner, allegations he vehemently denies .

In his own court, he ended Rafa Nadal’s dream amid all the hype in the first round, then was a double break down in the fifth set against Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor in the last-32 before fighting from 2-1 down to overcome Rune grittily in the last-16.

But de Minaur, who’s spent four-and-a-quarter hours less than Zverev in reaching the last-eight, can be forgiven for feeling confident of toppling the world No.4, despite Zverev holding a 7-2 career head-to-head advantage, including a win in their only meeting on clay in 2022.

Zverev recognises he’ll be playing a man giddy on confidence.

Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud awaits either Alex de Minaur or Alexander Zverev in the semi-final. (AP PHOTO)

“I think Alex is playing the best tennis of his life, for sure,” he said.

“Especially this year, he’s seventh in the race (to Turin, effectively the ATP’s 2024 ranking) and could be a contender (at the ATP Finals) in Turin, he’s playing incredible tennis for sure.

“The two times I lost to him were in Australia during team competitions funnily enough, but I’m looking forward to a battle and a probably a very difficult match.

“There’s certain things he’s improved, his serve, his second serve especially has got better. We’ll see – I’ll tell you more after tomorrow.”

De Minaur won’t get ahead of himself, but the thought of playing two-time finalist Ruud in the last-four, rather than a 24-time grand slam champion, is a real carrot, especially as he beat the Norwegian in the final at Acapulco, Mexico, this year.

A first Australian man in the semi-final since Pat Rafter in 1997? The first Aussie man in the final since champ Rod Laver beat Ken Rosewall in 1969? 

Could it be time to dream?