De Minaur Reaches Rome Fourth Round With All The Right Stuff

Alex de Minaur (photo: ATP Tour video)

ROME/WASHINGTON, May 1, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Alex de Minaur will be the first to admit that his results on clay aren’t great and there’s room for improvement.

On Monday afternoon at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in the Italian capital city, though, the personable Australian with the never-say-die attitude beat Felix Auger-Aliassime for the first time. His 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 victory over the 20th-ranked Canadian in three hours on the Grand Stand Arena has advanced the World No. 11 to the fourth round in Rome for the second time in three years.

The 25-year-old de Minaur hit 10 winners and converted four of 12 break points en route to collecting his second win against a Top-20 opponent on clay in 13 attempts.

“[My results on clay] aren’t great, so plenty of room for improvement,” the ninth seed de Minaur said in his on-court interview after improving his 2024 win-loss record to 25-9. “Every time I’m out here I’m enjoying it, with a proper mindset, and I think I can play well. Especially when you have nice hot conditions. I’m taking it a match at a time. I’m happy with a quality win on the clay today, and we move on.”

After de Minaur squandered a 3-1 lead in the deciding set, he dug in and got the break back in the ninth game on a double fault by Auger-Aliassime to go ahead 5-4. Then, de Minaur served out the victory over the Madrid finalist, Auger-Aliassime, who is now 9-4 on clay this season and dropped to 2-6 against Top-20 opponents.

“I think Felix is a very good player on the clay,” de Minaur said. “He had a lot of confidence coming in, so I’m very happy how I stayed in the match at all stages. I was positive, no matter what came my way. I could have had a double break in the third to maybe secure the match. I didn’t get it, ended up getting broken, and I managed to compose myself so I’m very happy with that.”

In Tuesday’s round of 16, de Minaur will oppose World No. 8 and sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who improved to 12-2 on clay this season with a 6-2, 7-6 (1) victory over No. 27 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. Tsitsipas hit 27 winners to nine unforced errors and outpointed Norrie 66-53.

“My shots were landing deep in the court and creating a lot of angles. It is difficult for my opponent to control those shots and I think I did that in the first set,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview following his 23rd win of the season, including 2-1 against the 30th-ranked British lefty. “Precise, one might call it. The first set I did a great job in making him feel uncomfortable, at least that is what I felt from the other side of the court.

“The second set was not going to be easy,” added Tsitsipas, who was a Rome finalist in 2022. “He is a top player and knows how to adapt to situations and fix things, so I knew that the second set might present a different type of challenge. It did and I had to find solutions. He was holding serve a little more comfortably and my shots were perhaps not doing as much damage.

“My patience and determination in the tie-break, trying to hang in there and make as many balls as I could and make as many balls as deep as possible so I didn’t have to defend much was something that gave me the 7-1 in the tie-break. That was a relief. It was getting really close and the match was played in a few small details.”

Muller garners biggest win of his career in upset against Rublev

Qualifier Alexandre Muller earned the biggest win of his career with his 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 third-round victory over World No. 6 Andrey Rublev in one hour and 49 minutes on Pietrangeli.

The 109th-ranked Muller from France came into his tussle against Rublev 0-5 versus Top-10 players (0-8 against Top 20) and looking for the biggest win of his career. He was playing in his first ATP Masters 1000 third round against the fifth seed Rublev, who carried a seven-match winning streak into the contest and earlier this month won the Mutua Madrid Open title on clay.

What transpired was this: Muller hit 27 winners, made just six unforced errors, broke Rublev’s serve three times and outpointed him 86-78 to earn his first Top-10 triumph. He became the first Frenchman to reach the round of 16 in Rome since Ugo Humbert in 2020.

“It’s amazing,” Muller, 27,  said in his on-court interview. Including qualifying, he’s won five straight matches. “I didn’t expect to win against Andrey today. I mean, I knew I had a chance, but it’s special to win against a Top-10 [opponent].”

Next, Muller will play No. 21 seed Nicolas Jarry of Chile, who held off 125th-ranked Italian wild card Stefano Napolitano, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, in two hours and 21 minutes on Grand Stand Arena behind 37 winners. Napolitano was the last of 12 Italians who began the tournament last week.

“It’s so tough to play against this crowd,” Jarry said in an on-court interview. “At the same time, it’s beautiful, it’s special. I’m happy to be able to get through.

“I didn’t feel good throughout the whole match. At the end, he was playing so good. Mentally, I’m so happy for my battles, how I played, how I broke [his serve] in the third set. I got the win, that’s the most important [thing]. There will be another day.”

Around the Foro Italico

No. 14 seed Tommy Paul of the United States is through to the last 16 after defeating No. 52 Dominic Koepfer, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 37 minutes on Court 12. Paul hit 21 winners, converted four of 16 break points and benefited from 30 unforced errors by the German. Paul outpointed Koepfer 77-55 to move into Tuesday’s fourth round against World No. 4 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

The second-seeded Medvedev withstood 41 winners from 121st-ranked Serbian qualifier Hamad Medjedovic and won 7-6 (5), 2-6, 7-5, in two hours and 40 minutes on Campo Centrale for his eighth straight win in Rome. Medvedev didn’t do himself any favors as he had to overcome 10 double faults and 31 unforced errors against the 20-year-old 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals titlist to pull out his 24th victory of the season. He improved to 18-1 versus players outside the Top 20 in 2024.

“I felt like I started the match well and then in a way it was only going downhill,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “My serve was not there, my shots were not aggressive enough when I needed to. Because many times I would like to play the rhythm I played, but I would also like from time to time to surprise my opponent with some good shots. Today I was not able to do it.

“At one moment in the match, I thought what I was doing would not be enough to win the match. So I’m happy that even by playing not my best I could win. Tomorrow I’m going to try to find my best tennis.”

Two days after defeating 10-time champion Rafael Nadal in the second round, World No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland took on World No. 28 Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina for the first time. Etcheverry came in 0-6 against Top-10 players and was seeking the biggest win of career, while Hurkacz sought to make the round of 16 in Rome for the second time.

As it happened, Hurkacz prevailed in a two-hour battle on Pietrangeli over Etcheverry, winning 7-6 (7), 6-2. The No. 7 seed Hurkacz hit 27 winners, made just 15 unforced errors, converted both of his break points and saved all theee break points he faced from the 25th seed Etcheverry. Hurkacz outpointed his opponent 77-66.

“It was such a battle, Tomas was playing some incredible tennis,” Hurkacz said in his on-court interview. “We’re both playing some good shots, just battling it out as hard as we could. It was a really difficult match. The start of the second set was very close. I needed to be ready for every single point.”

In the fourth round, Hurkacz will face No. 17 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, who eliminated No. 10 seed Holger Rune of Denmark, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, in one hour and 48 minutes on Grand Stand Arena. It’s the first time Baez has reached the fourth round of an ATP Masters 1000 event, and in beating last year’s finalist Rune, he notched his first Top-20 win of the season.

Monday’s Foro Italico results

Tuesday’s Foro Italico order of play

By the numbers

No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev and No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany have advanced to the last 16 at all five Masters 1000s played this season.

“Quotable …”

“The guy is serving 225 [km/h] and hitting the forehand as hard as Berrettini sometimes, so he reminded me of him a little bit. He’s young, he’s up and coming. I don’t know what the Italians get to eat but there seems to be so many young guys and so many great players, and he’s definitely one of them.”

— No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev, during his on-court interview after defeating Italy’s Luciano Darderi Sunday night.