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Heart carries de Minaur a long way on clay

3 minute read

Australian tennis star Alex de Minaur reckons he can answer the clay-courters' blistering artillery with weapons all of his own - speed, spirit and a big heart.

ALEX DE MINAUR. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images

If Alex de Minaur has heard it once, he's heard it a thousand times - that he simply doesn't have the ammunition to counter the heavy artillery of the best in tennis.

Good-natured soul that he is, the Australian No.1 will fight this assumption with every fibre.

De Minaur's heart is his special weapon and he's never going to stop believing it can still carry him to the summit.

"I might not have the big weapons that other players might rely on to dig themselves out of trouble, but something I can always rely on is myself giving 150 per cent every single time," he told AAP.

"That's part of my DNA and if I can just keep that going every match, then if someone wants to beat me, they're going to have to do it the hard way."

Ask him about the disadvantages he faces as a wispy 69kg relative lightweight tackling the behemoths of the modern game with their monster serving and crushing groundstrokes, and he'll cite his speed, spirit and "extremely competitive" nature.

"You live with what you've got, and all you can do is to try and improve and sharpen those tools you have to get the most out of yourself. That's my daily path," he said.

It's the sort of spirit he'll need again on Tuesday when the 19th seed opens his French Open campaign, doubtless feeling pretty friendless while tackling Hugo Gaston, the bright young hope of French tennis, in front of Court Suzanne Lenglen fans who can be intimidatingly partisan.

Fortunately, he may have had a dress rehearsal in Lyon last week, where he unleashed a primal roar towards the crowd after beating home favourite Ugo Humbert.

Wasn't that most unlike this most mild-mannered fellow?

"Well, it was a bit of heat of the battle thing. There were a couple things I didn't like being said in the match," he revealed.

"Yeah, it was good to stamp my authority, being able to get a win there against a French player on his home ground."

His never-say-die approach, that manic determination to chase every lost cause which was also his Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt's modus operandi, is what has so impressed this year as de Minaur makes spectacular strides on clay.

He'd started the season with just six career clay-court wins.

This year alone he's won nine, reached two semi-finals and come perilously close to beating the teenage comet Carlos Alcaraz when holding match point against the youngster in the Barcelona semi-final.

"That was a tough pill to swallow," de Minaur said.

"Some days you just don't get lucky. I had my chances, didn't take them, played a very good match - but I got a lot of positives to take out of it.

"It showed me that this year I'm always having tough matches against the top guys. That consistency is what I've been wanting to work on and improve.

"It's been good and I'm really happy with my mindset throughout the year."

He's also noticed the fans around Europe love a good little 'un toppling a good big 'un.

"People will always appreciate someone who leaves it all out there every single time they step out on court - and maybe they can see it's what I try to do day in day out."

Just try telling them that on Court Suzanne Lenglen, though...

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