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De Minaur's agony in defeat to rocket man

3 minute read

Australian Alex de Minaur held two match points in the Barcelona Open semi-final but was still edged by teen star Carlos Alcaraz, who went on to win the title.

ALEX DE MINAUR.
ALEX DE MINAUR. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Alex de Minaur has been left to reflect ruefully on what might have been after almost shooting down Spain's young rocket man Carlos Alcaraz.

Australia's No.1 held two match points against Alcaraz before being defied by a miraculous winner and then edged out in an epic semi-final of the Barcelona Open on Sunday.

Then as he rested weary limbs and a broken heart, de Minaur won't have been comforted by the sight of teenage comet Alcaraz easily winning the late afternoon final against his compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta.

Neither will the Sydneysider have been cheered by Alcaraz's admission after his extraordinary 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 semi-final triumph over the Aussie that he'd been "lucky" in victory.

What significant consolation de Minaur could take, though, was that he'd played his best-ever clay-court match on a surface he's previously struggled on against a lad who' may be destined to be an all-time great.

On the court named after Rafa Nadal at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, the 18-year-old, who increasingly seems to be emulating the early exploits of Spain's greatest, was outplayed for substantial periods by de Minaur, who's rarely played so brilliantly.

The 'Demon' had been on the verge of by far the biggest win of his career on the red stuff as he twice served for a straight sets win and a slice of tennis history by becoming the first Australian man to make the final of the prestigious event since Rod Laver no less than 52 years before.

But when holding a 6-5, 40-15 advantage, de Minaur was beaten by an incredible forehand from Alcaraz, who somehow contrived a winner on the run, contorting his body with the ball seemingly already having beaten him.

He then salvaged another match point with de Minaur still looking shell-shocked as he went on to level the set.

After losing a subsequent see-saw tiebreak, de Minaur rallied again strongly in the decider but was eventually decisively broken at 4-5 as Alcaraz went on to celebrate after three hours 39 minutes of exhausting, exhilarating fare.

"I was lucky, I don't know how I did it, it was very close and he was fighting to the very last ball," said Alcaraz.

"He was unbelievable, it was an unbelievable match , very close but I was fighting all the time."

The match had been resumed at 2-2 in the opening set on Sunday morning after rain, which had plagued the tournament all week, cut short Saturday's action.

And for long stretches in the Catalan sunshine, de Minaur had the young home favourite on the run as Alcaraz was hurried into mistakes by the Aussie's forehand tracers and all-court speed and athleticism.

But once he survived - as champions do - there never seemed any doubt he'd beat experienced compatriot Carreno Busta, who'd defeated Argentinian sixth seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 in the other resumed semi.

For though his brutal match had lasted two hours longer than Carreno Busta's, giving him much less recovery time before the late afternoon final, Alcaraz still looked dominant in a 6-3 6-2 win a few hours later.

He'll power into the top 10 for the first time when the new rankings come out on Monday.

Eerily, back in 2005, Alcaraz's tennis hero Nadal also won his first Barcelona Open at age 18 to crack the top 10 for the first time.

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