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De Minaur misses out on first clay final

3 minute read

Alex de Minaur has been beaten in the semi-final of the Lyon Open but feels another deep run in a clay-court tournament bodes well for his French Open hopes.

ALEX DE MINAUR.
ALEX DE MINAUR. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images

Alex de Minaur's hopes of reaching a maiden clay-court championship final have been dashed in Lyon.

But Australia's No.1, beaten by rising Slovakian Alex Molcan in the last-four on Friday, has taken heart from another good week's work on the French clay as he packs his bags for his trip to Paris.

De Minaur, the man on whom Australia's hopes at the French Open primarily rest over the next fortnight, may have felt he could go to Roland Garros as a clay-court tournament winner as he took on Molcan, who's ranked 25 places behind him.

But the Slovakian southpaw, who reached the final of another clay-court event in Marrakech last month, unleashed some big groundstrokes and proved too sharp for de Minaur, running out a 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 winner after an hour and 48 minutes.

Defeat will have been a frustration for the 23-year-old fourth seed, who'd reached his second semi-final in the space of a month on a surface where he'd had no success at all before this year.

But de Minaur should travel the 400km north in good heart as he gets a chance of an extra day's preparation at Roland Garros on Saturday on the eve of the tournament in the knowledge that he'll be back in the world's top 20 next week.

"There's a lot of factors you've got to take into account but I'm playing at a good level on clay and I'm showing it, week in week out," de Minaur told AAP from Lyon earlier this week.

"So if I arrive at Roland Garros with energy, feeling well and doing all the right things then, hopefully, I'll be able to put together a good run."

De Minaur has never got past the second round at Roland Garros in five attempts but he reckons he's a different player on the surface this campaign.

"I always knew that I had the game to play on clay. It's been more of a mindset thing over the last couple of years," he said.

"But I've been able to start with the right mindset and I'm playing some great tennis on clay, using variation, and being able to hang tough."

Molcan just had that bit extra on Friday, never looking back after an early mini-break in the tiebreak courtesy of a brilliant backhand winner, and then pulling off an astounding volley to break for 2-1 in the second set.

At Roland Garros, de Minaur will have to face another dangerous left-hander in the shape of 21-year-old French youth Olympic champion Hugo Gaston, the boys' doubles winner at the Australian Open four years ago.

The southpaw theme will continue in the Lyon final when Molcan will meet British top seed Cameron Norrie, who edged up-and-coming Dane Holger Rune 6-2 5-7 6-4.

In the other French Open warm-up ATP event in Geneva, Norwegian Casper Ruud moved in sight of his second title of the season as he plays Portugal's Joao Sousa in Saturday's final.

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