De Minaur lands walkover to reach last 16 at Wimbledon

Ian Chadband |

Alex de Minaur’s Wimbledon hopes have received a major boost as he was given the luxury of a walkover into the last 16 while his rivals continued to be frustrated by the rain.

The Australian No.1’s smooth path eased further after his third-round opponent Lucas Pouille pulled out with a stomach injury before the start of their third-round match on Saturday.

The ninth seed could celebrate a stress-free morning, knowing he’s booked his second-week spot at SW19 without the worry of having to play a possibly troublesome opponent on a damp, potentially difficult No.3 court.

Pouille himself let de Minaur know an hour-and-three quarters before they were due on court that he wouldn’t be able to play. The Australian felt that was a “class act” by the former French No.1, giving him more time to prepare for the rest of his day.

Lucas Pouille after losing the 2019 AO semi-final to Novak Djokovic.
Frenchman Lucas Pouille made it to the semi-finals of the 2019 Australian Open. (AP PHOTO)

“I’m probably a little bit relieved, just because everyone knew it was going to be a long day with the rain and I was able to finish quite quickly,” said de Minaur.

“I went from having to have probably a very long, stop-start day waiting at the courts, to being able to move on quite quickly and get ready for the next one.”

Meanwhile, the men battling for the right to face him in the fourth round – French world No.34 Arthur Fils and Russia’s 44th-ranked Roman Safiullin – had to wait in frustration for over four hours to start their match amid more of the persistent showers which have plagued the  event this year.

De Minaur enjoyed two three-set wins against fellow Australian James Duckworth and Spain’s Jaume Maunar in his opening two matches and is savouring the most comfortable passage to the last-16 of a slam that he has ever enjoyed.

In his sixth Wimbledon, he’s made the fourth round for just the second time, following his 2022 run.

De Minaur has moved a step closer to potentially meet either seven-time champion Djokovic or fellow Sydneysider Alexei Popyrin in the quarter-finals.

Popyrin and world No.2 Djokovic will meet on Centre Court later on Saturday in a repeat of their 2023 Australian Open clash, with the winner to meet either 15th seed Holger Rune or French qualifier Quentin Halys in the fourth round.

De Minaur said he would be watching. “Pop’s playing some great stuff and it’s great to see him do well here in Wimbledon where he maybe probably didn’t expect it. I’ve got a lot of time for him, hopefully it’s a great match and Aussie wins.”

De Minaur has made the second week for the fourth successive grand slam, but making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon would be new territory for the 25-year-old.

World No.212 Pouille, the former Australian Open semi-finalist who once made the top-10 in the world before his career began to spiral because of injury setbacks, had been making a stirring return by battling through the qualifiers at Wimbledon.

He had actually been close to pulling out after feeling pain from his stomach muscles during his win over Adelaide’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, but ignored the advice of his team to withdraw and battled on.

He eventually emerged victorious only when Kokkinakis took a tumble on court and had to retire with a knee injury.

This was the first time in his 74 grand-slam singles matches that de Minaur has been given the bonus of a walkover win.

“Getting to second week is a great start, and I’m looking forward to hopefully pushing for more,” said de Minaur.

AAP