Home » Dashing ‘Demon’ in Wimbledon breakthrough; De Minaur reaches last eight but is there an injury concern?

Dashing ‘Demon’ in Wimbledon breakthrough; De Minaur reaches last eight but is there an injury concern?

Dashing ‘Demon’ in Wimbledon breakthrough; De Minaur reaches last eight but is there an injury concern?

Alex de Minaur has reached into the quarterfinals of Wimbledon for the first time with a superb victory over emerging French talent Arthur Fils at the All England Lawn Tennis Club on Monday, but ended the match looking a little concerned.

The Australian star is yet to drop a set during the 2024 Championships and, after a brilliant start in which he raced through the first four games, was able to exact revenge for a recent loss to the exciting Fils in Barcelona when progressing 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-3 in 2hr 54min.

Despite a ferocious flurry from the Frenchman in the third set aside which forced him onto the back foot for a period, de Minaur produced his best performance to date for the fortnight as he progressed to his second straight quarterfinal in a grand slam.

But after producing an outstanding lunging volley to close the match, the Australian moved stiffly and celebrated in muted fashion.

“I’ll be alright. I will find a way,” he said when quizzed as to whether he had rolled an ankle on match point.

The 25-year-old, who awaits the winner of a clash between seven-time champion Novak Djokovic and Danish star Holger Rune, will be seeking to break new ground again on Wednesday when he bids to make the semifinals of a major for the first time.

Get on board Kayo and watch every game of every round of the NRL + AFL Seasons live and ad break free during play. New to Kayo? Start Your Free Trial Today >

After reaching the last eight at Roland Garros last month and following that with a grass court title in the Netherlands, de Minaur has moved to a live ranking of six, which would be a career-high, though he can still be jumped by at one rival positioned below him.

In a sign of his growing maturity, the former Wimbledon boys’ singles finalist was able to banish the ghosts of a couple of years ago when beaten by Cristian Garin in the same round in a match where he clinched the first two sets and held match points.

He is the second active Australian male to reach the quarterfinals of grand slams on three occasions, joining Nick Kyrgios, and the 20th Australian man in the Open era to reach the last eight at The AELTC.

In progressing to the last eight, he becomes the first Australian since Lleyton Hewitt to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year.

Asked what he was most pleased about, de Minaur said; “Getting over the finish line.”

“I definitely made it a lot harder than I probably should if. It was a great job mentally to stay with it, even though at the end I could not hold my serve, but I just backed my returns.”

The crowd groaned when they learned de Minaur would face either Djokovic or Rune next, prompting the Australian to quip; “That does not sound good.”

But he has wins over both men and has vowed he will give it his best shot, despite the late injury concern.

“I am just excited to be in the quarterfinals. I am excited to have another battle. One thing you can definitely count on is me going out there, trying my hardest and playing my heart out,” he said.

Australia’s Alex De Minaur returns against France’s Arthur Fils during their men’s singles fourth round tennis match on the eighth day of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 8, 2024. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USESource: AFP

De Minaur was near flawless in the infancy of the match, with the depth and precision of his groundstrokes and the quality of his movement placing his younger rival under immense pressure.

Prior to the match, the world No.9 had said that with the large cuts Fils takes when ripping the ball – his forehand technique in particular has a significant arc which generates enormous spin and power – he thought the Frenchman would be better suited to succeeding on clay.

So it proved. The 20-year-old, who will enter the top 30 next week, will be a formidable foe on any surface in years to come and has three top 10 wins from nine outings already. Playing in just his sixth grand slam, he performed extremely well at different stages on Monday.

But with the de Minaur forehand zipping and his backhand slice skidding through the court, Fils found it hard to handle the lower-bouncing ball on his own forehand wing, even though the quality of his own shot making was extraordinary at times.

That said, there was a significant amount of goodwill for the Frenchman on Court 1 when he finally broke through for a game at 0-4, and the crowd urged him on when he started the second well and fought hard to retrieve a service break in the deciding set.

Having found the rhythm late in the first set, Fils started the second set far speedier and was able to snare his first break for the match for a 2-0 lead with a quality game on the de Minaur serve, punctuated by a blistering backhand return that drew an error from the Aussie.

The flourishes of power were frequent from the forehand wing, but Fils also fashioned points to his advantage through touch, with a backhand drop shot that allowed him to move to a 3-0 lead a prime example of his all round game.

As de Minaur retrieved the service break to work back into the set, his regular sparring partner over the past week Cruz Hewitt, the son of Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, jumped from his set and pumped his fist in the delight.

The challenge of keeping pace with the Australian No.1 was evident in the 15-year-old in recent days, who received a back and shoulder massage midway through the set from his mum Be in the row behind – one doubts it was due to the stress of the match as de Minaur regained his momentum.

The longer the set progressed, the more the fire from the Frenchman diminished as the errors started to flow from Fils’ racquet. This was partly due to the excellence of the Australian who, having seen Fils find his rhythm, began changing the pace in rallies more regularly.

He worked short slices wide to Fils backhand to draw him forward, whipped topspin lobs over his head and flattened through forehands to the same wing of his rival, rarely giving the 20-year-old a look at the same ball twice in a row in a rally.

After saving set points at 3-5, Fils fired fist pumps to the crowd in an indication of his appetite for the fight. But de Minaur knuckled down to close out the set.

France’s Arthur Fils celebrates during his Rd of 16 clash against Australia’s Alex De Minaur on the eighth day of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 8, 2024. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USESource: AFP

His defensive nous came to the fore at the start of the third as he continued to frustrate his rival, who had noted prior to the match that hitting through de Minaur was extremely hard, as he snared another break of serve to move to a 3-1 advantage.

But Fils, who had defeated 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz and then required five sets to defeat Roman Safiullin on Saturday, refused to concede without a fight and produced a thunderous forehand to retrieve the break to level at 4-all.

He threw all he at de Minaur in a bid to extend the match, with some of the Frenchman’s ferocious forehands drawing audible gasps from the crowd, and drew a rousing ovation after breaking the No.9 seed again to force a fourth set.

After a toilet break, de Minaur was able to defuse the firepower of Fils when breaking him to love to start the fourth set and was able to save two break points himself in the following game. Living dangerously, the “Demon” was forced to save three break two games later.

But he wrested complete control once again when breaking Fils for a second time and thumped his fist in delight after punching away a forehand volley to move to a 4-1 lead.

The challenges kept coming, with de Minaur dropping serve twice more as both players struggled on their own delivery, but he closed out a fine win with a magnificent angled forehand volley drop shot.