On Tuesday, Alex De Minaur kicked off his Milan campaign with a 4-2, 3-7 (5), 4-1, 4-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Next Gen ATP Finals, a 21-and-under year-end event.
De Minaur, currently ranked a career-high No. 18, is the event's top seed. While he has benefited from the withdrawals of sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas and 15th-ranked Denis Shapovalov, he's also the highest-ranked player in the field by almost 30 spots.
It is a big rise from the beginning of the season, when he was No. 31 in the rankings. The 20-year-old Aussie has won three titles —Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai—despite being sidelined for more than two months with a groin injury.
"It’s been an unbelievable year and not one that I expected. I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish," he was quoted as saying by the ATP. "The injury, the fall in the rankings, dealing with all the pressure.
"I still managed to win three titles this year. I'm proud of all the work I've done with my team and the progress we've made to get to this point."
He is also coming off reaching the final of Basel, falling to 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer. That was still a positive for the up-and-comer.
"It's been an incredible experience, one which I will learn a lot from," he said.