De Minaur Reaches Rotterdam Final With Birthday Revenge Win

Alex de Minaur (photo: ATP Tour video)

ROTTERDAM/WASHINGTON, February 17, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Saturday’s ABN AMRO Open semifinal matchups in Rotterdam contained a couple of intriguing rematches from the 2023 edition. It began with No. 5 seed Alex de Minaur seeking revenge on his 25th birthday against No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov for last year’s quarterfinal loss that spoiled his 24th birthday party. Then, in the nightcap, No. 1 seed Jannik Sinner took on Dutch hopeful Tallon Griekspoor after defeating him in last year’s semifinals.

As it happened, the 11th-ranked never-say-die de Minaur parlayed an early break of serve in each set and defeated the World No. 13 Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 23 minutes to reach his 15th career ATP Tour final and become the first Australian to advance to the Rotterdam title match since Lleyton Hewitt won the 2004 final. Come Monday, de Minaur will join the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings at No. 9.

On Sunday, De Minaur will play Sinner, who beat the 29th-ranked Griekspoor, 6-2, 6-4, in an hour and 21 minutes for his 14th straight victory. Sinner remains undefeated (11-0) in 2024.

“I’m extremely happy with the level throughout the whole match,” de Minaur said in his on-court, post-match interview. “It was probably one of the better matches I’ve played from start to finish. Even saying that, I always know that Grigor is going to lift his level and compete until the end, and I had to fight off some pretty tough break points, when I came up with some of my best tennis.

“That was the key today. I managed to hold onto my serve at key moments and I live to fight another day.”

De Minaur broke Dimitrov at love to open their semifinal, and though challenged with a couple of break points against him in the fourth game, never wavered. He maintained the upper hand and closed out the 42-minute opening set by striking his fifth ace on his third set-point opportunity.

Then, de Minaur broke to open the second set after Dimitrov netted a backhand that quashed a spirited 11-shot rally. With a set and a break advantage, de Minaur consolidated for a 2-0 advantage. Later, he saved a break point through a combination of hustle and determination to hold for 4-2.

Soon, after holding for 5-3, de Minaur aggressively pinned Dimitrov into a corner on the Bulgarian’s service game by taking advantage of some unforced errors that gave him a love-30 advantage. Dimitrov wasn’t finished as he leveled matters at 30-all. However, de Minaur gained a match point at 30-40 and won when Dimitrov sent a forehand long.

De Minaur finished with six aces and 18 winners, won 73 percent of his first-serve points and converted three of three break-point chances. He outpointed Dimitrov 60-53.

“This is my standard,” said De Minaur. “This is what I’ve got to bring every single time I walk on the court. That’s how I’m going to play my best tennis. I think I made a big step in the right direction, showing the type of tennis I can play, week in, week out. I think I’ve raised the bar a little bit and hopefully there’s plenty more to go.”

Sinner winning streak reaches 14

In the night session, the World No. 4 Sinner advanced to his second straight Rotterdam final by taking control of his semifinal against Griekspoor early. By the conclusion of his 6-2, 6-4 straight-set victory, Sinner was arguably playing his best tennis of the week as he reached his 16th tour-level final in search of his 12th title.

Sinner won 81 percent of his first-serve points, which included seven aces, and struck 16 winners while committing just eight unforced errors. Griekspoor hit 19 winners but also made 18 unforced errors. Sinner outpointed his opponent 59-45.

“Today, in a practice session beforehand, we tried to keep the intensity quite high, trying to feel the court and get into the rhythm a little bit,” Sinner said in his on-court interview. “I knew that today I had to raise the level, which I have done, and obviously I’m glad that I can play once more here in the final in Rotterdam.”

The 22-year-old Italian from the South Tyrol, who won his first major title at last month’s Australian Open has not lost since the championship match of the 2023 Nitto ATP Finals to Novak Djokovic last November.

Sinner improved to 24-1 against players ranked outside the Top 20 since Wimbledon last July. He’s 9-1 in hard-court semifinals since the start of last season.

Around the Rotterdam Ahoy

Dutch duo Robin Haase and Botic van de Zandschulp held off Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow of the United States, 6-4, 4-6, 10-8, in an hour and 16 minutes to advance to Sunday’s doubles final. They recovered from 4-6 down in the match tie-break to pull out the victory, which improved them to 9-2 as a team in three events over the past two seasons.

Hasse and van de Zandschulp will face Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic of Croatia, who upset No. 1 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States, 7-5, 6-4, in an hour and 28 minutes, behind seven aces and an 88-percent efficiency in winning points on their first serve. The winners faced no break points and outscored their opponents 65-55.

Saturday’s ABN AMRO Open results

Sunday’s ABN AMRO Open order of play

By the numbers

With a title win in Rotterdam this week, Jannik Sinner would become the first Italian to reach Top Three in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history (since 1973).

“Quotable …”

“I think my mentality [has been key]. I think my physicality is always going to be there, and my mentality normally is, but it’s a long year so you have weeks when it might be a little bit tougher to be very positive all the time.

“From the word go here in Rotterdam, I’ve felt a very calm presence. I’ve felt positive, I’ve been calm and collected throughout whole matches, and I think that’s been a big key for me.”

— No. 5 seed Alex de Minaur, during his on-court interview, in talking about his form this week.