De Minaur is drawing inspiration from Australia's best, and that's saying something
Advertisement

Opinion

De Minaur is drawing inspiration from Australia's best, and that's saying something

We'll get to Alex de Minaur in a sec.

In the meantime, if it's not written in the stars, it is certainly the approach taken by many of them. For in so many fields where such stars have achieved their celebrity they oft display the innate belief that they are the ones who, if they didn't quite invent the wheel, are at least rolling along better than anyone ever did. (Yes, yes, I know it's a bit contrived, but stick with me, sports fans!)

Alex de Minaur paid tribute to Australia's tennis greats.

Alex de Minaur paid tribute to Australia's tennis greats.Credit:Getty

All up, it means that those who publicly respect their forebears is refreshing and right now there really is no better example than our own de Minaur. The 21-year-old is up against the world No.3 Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals of the US Open. Going into this tournament, de Minaur paid his dues to those who have gone before him in Australian ranks, such as Frank Sedgman, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall et al.

"There is such a rich history, legacy and culture within Australian tennis," the Sydneysider noted on the US Open website, "and there is nothing I would want more than to be known as one of those guys and to be in the same kind of conversations as those people. Obviously I have very large shoes to fill but, look, I'm just going to do my best and keep gathering some wins and push myself out there."

Advertisement

Bravo, Alex and we wish you well. The idea that a young Australian tennis player is drawing inspiration from the legacy he has inherited is really something and, in that spirit, I offer a quick look at the best Australian tennis player we could build from such a legacy.

We wish you:

Rod Laver's professionalism. As the first real professional tennis star, the one who had the courage to forge the path from amateurism to professionalism – and copping a fair bit of flak along the way – Laver is and always deserves to be the patron saint of Australian tennis professionalism. From early on, he was the one who set the standards for fitness and rigorous preparation, and his reward was being the world No.1 for a staggering seven years, from 1964 to 1970.

Rod Laver set the standard for fitness and preparation for the early professional era.

Rod Laver set the standard for fitness and preparation for the early professional era.Credit:Archives

Ken Rosewall's backhand. Back in the day, throughout the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, "Muscles", as he was known, was famous for it. Just about every one of them was sliced and he used to use it to devastating effect manoeuvre his opponent around the court, setting himself up for a killer forehand to put the point away.

John Newcombe's serve and volley. "Newk", in the late 1960s and much of the 70s, was the best in the business at that part of the game, and opponents lucky enough to return his thunderous serve would look up to see this huge moustache at the net, with seemingly eight poised racquets sprouting from it like a hairy octopus, ready to belt it away in all directions. That is precisely what he did to Jimmy Connors in a thrilling four-set win in the final of the 1975 Australian Open, and those of us watching never forgot it!

Loading

Pat Rafter's insouciance. There was something about the way Rafter played around the turn of the century that he was never flustered. Goran Ivanisevic could put three successive aces past him and Rafter would miss an easy volley on the fourth point that might have got him back in the game ... and he couldn't even blink. Rafter would simply set himself for the next point, the next game, ignoring entirely what had come before. For sheer mental strength, only one comes to mind who might have been even stronger and that was ...

Lleyton Hewitt's gumption. If Hewitt was dying in a ditch, down 6-0, 6-0, 5-0 with his opponent on serve, with his last breath he'd be chasing down every ball, trying to find the way to win. He never gave up, no matter what the circumstances. And the only thing he seemed to love more than winning was representing Australia in the Davis Cup. The other thing to emulate in Hewitt was how, like Andre Agassi, he went from brat to braveheart in a generation we saw him grow as a man before our eyes, as the years passed.

And the one last quality I'd wish for Alex de Minaur?

Nick Kyrgios' quixotic brilliance. I guess you've either got it or you haven't but, given Kyrgios regularly pulls off shots that others can't even conceive let alone execute, when we get to building the perfect Australian male tennis player from the ghosts of Christmases past, that Kyrgios quality is a must.

Good luck, Alex. You've done us proud so far, and in these tough times we are in the mood for a whole lot more of you.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

Sport newsletter

Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in Sport

Loading