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De Minaur keeps Australian hopes alive in Italian Open

3 minute read

Alex de Minaur has reached the last-32 of the Italian Open as the last Australian standing in the clay-court Masters 1000 event.

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

Alex de Minaur has become familiar with the lonely feeling of being the last Australian standing at major tennis tournaments - but he's dealing with the responsibility pretty effectively at the Italian Open.

The nation's top player, the last Australian in the singles to take to the Foro Italico courts in Rome on Saturday, can only have been aware that his compatriots had been falling like ninepins around him all week as he patiently awaited his opening match after a first-round bye.

But he was determined not to join the casualty list as he swept to victory over tough Spanish clay-court specialist Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2 6-3 in their second-round encounter on Court 12 to make it into the second week.

De Minaur has had a pretty decent campaign on the clay over the last month, reaching the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo and defeating an admittedly under-par Rafael Nadal in Barcelona before the great man avenged that defeat in Madrid.

But he could do with a morale-boosting run as the French Open looms in a fortnight's time -- and the one-and-a-half hour victory over world No.62 Carballes Baena was a good start.

De Minaur broke the Spaniard's serve six times, with his speed around the court once again leading to some spectacular winners, not least when he chased down a Carballes Baena drop shot and somehow managed to still flick a forehand winner past him.

It's possible that a good run in Rome could result in world no.11 de Minaur returning to the top 10, but he will have a formidable obstacle in the third round in the shape of rejuvenated Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp 6-1 7-6 (8-6).

Auger-Aliassime is fresh from reaching the Madrid Open final and boasts a 2-0 career lead over de Minaur, having beaten him in the Davis Cup final in Malaga two years ago. The Sydneysider hasn't yet won a set off the Canadian.

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