Alex de Minaur scored his first Top 10 win on Friday, and in doing so, reached the fourth round of a major for the first time. Seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori was the casualty of the Aussie's breakthrough, 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Nishikori, who reached the 2014 US Open final has had a dismal summer hard-court season, losing in both his Montreal and Cincinnati openers and picking up just two matches in New York.
“Before coming here, I was a little bit worried,” Nishikori said after his second round match on Wednesday. "I didn’t have much confidence.”
In danger of going down two sets and a break, Nishikori erased two break points in the third game of the third set, reeling off three consecutive games for the first time in the match to go up 4-1. A double fault by de Minaur gave the 29-year-old Japanese the set.
After a changeover, the players traded service breaks, with Nishikori holding at love to consolidate. But in the seventh game, the 20-year-old de Minaur picked up his seventh break of the match, then won the next two games to complete a breakthrough performance.
"The crowd support was amazing," said De Minaur after the match. "I had a bit of a thrill last year against Cilic. Was two-sets-to-love up again and I'm glad I could finally get the win."
Unlike some of his fellow young players, such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, de Minaur has remained largely under the radar. He's won two titles this season, on home soil in Sydney in January and in Atlanta in July, both on hard courts. In March, he reached a career-high ranking of No. 24.
A nagging groin injury forced de Minaur to step away from the tour for nearly two months. After returning to the tour in April, he lost five of his next seven matches. He turned things around in Atlanta, dropping just one set en route to his second career ATP crown.
“[It’s] just confidence. Playing matches, playing the big points right. It’s something that you take for granted when things are going well. But when you have to stop and try to get back into it, it’s tough,” De Minaur said after his win in Georgia. “At the moment, I’m in a very good headspace. I feel like I’ve been training the house down, playing some great tennis. Now I’m just keen to go out there and compete and play some good tennis.”
He now awaits the winner of match between Grigor Dimotrov and Kamil Majchrzak.
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