De Minaur’s brave Paris bid ended by resilient Zverev

Ian Chadband |

Alex De Minaur battled courageously but to no avail against Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.
Alex De Minaur battled courageously but to no avail against Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

Alex de Minaur was proud of leaving his heart out on Court Philippe Chatrier but a Paris dream is over, his hopes of reaching the French Open semi-final ground into the Roland Garros clay-court dust by relentless Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

The first Australian man into the quarter-finals since Lleyton Hewitt two decades ago, de Minaur’s improbable adventure came to a halt as the towering German prevailed 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

But De Minaur was far from disgraced in Wednesday’s straight-sets at the end of a glorious breakthrough Roland Garros adventure in which he’d proved he could live with the best, even on his least productive surface. 

“I put up a hell of a fight … against a quality opponent,” he said. 

“(I) had my chances, probably should have taken the second set, and we would have been in for a proper battle.” 

“I left my heart out there. I did everything I could. It just wasn’t good enough.”

Ultimately, Zverev proved too strong as he took his record against the Australian to 8-2 and reached a fourth straight French Open semi-final.

Alexander Zverev.
Alexander Zverev celebrates during his quarter-final win over Alex de Minaur. (AP PHOTO)

The 27-year-old had been embroiled in two exhausting five-setters in his last two matches and been on court four hours longer than the Aussie.

But there was no sign of weariness, nor of any distraction from outside events with his trial for the alleged assault of an ex-partner still going on in Germany.

De Minaur attacked, never giving Zverev a moment of peace as he tried to rush the German out of his comfort zone. 

But ‘Demon’ was left sighing about missed chances in the second stanza, having gleaned a set point and led 4-0 in the tiebreak. 

“Winning that changes the whole match, but it didn’t happen. It slipped away,” he said.

It was a magnificent tie from the start, as a blistering 25-stroke rally ended by a de Minaur drop-shot winner set the tone in the second game.

There were a host of extraordinary exchanges, including a second-set epic in which de Minaur leapt in the air only to miss Zverev’s lob but still had the speed to scuttle back, retrieve the ball and ultimately dig out the point.

But it was not enough for de Minaur. 

“Sure, I had some good highlights (but) highlights don’t win you matches. I would rather be boring and win the match,” he said.

Cheered on again by his new French teenage ‘superfan’ Paul – decked out in a replica of ‘Demon’s’ NSW blue kit – there was plenty of ‘blue wall’ resilience from the 25-year old early on, but aggression was the watchword.

One dismal service game at 3-3 effectively cost him the opening set, and he got his big chance of levelling when leading 6-5 in the next, as another lovely lob earned him set point.

Yet Zverev not only rescued the game, but came back from 4-0 down in a thrilling tiebreak to earn a set point by outlasting the Sydneysider in a 39-shot rally.  

A shattered de Minaur then hit a forehand long, triggering the sinking feeling of having to pull off the first comeback from two sets down in his career.

Another break in the sixth game of the third set, again ending with a double fault, looked fatal to de Minaur’s chances of being the first Australian man into the Roland Garros semis since Pat Rafter in 1997.

But he broke back with a fabulous drop volley, only for Zverev to crank up the pressure again to break de Minaur for a fifth time and seal victory in just under three hours.

“I played a pretty good fight, I did my best,” de Minaur said. 

“He’s a very good player, loves the clay and plays well here. He deserves the win today, and all the credit.”