From playing a sudden death point to blowing past the opposition: that about sums up Alex de Minaur’s brilliant debut at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown on Friday evening in Antwerp, where the 21-year-old won all eight quarters he played.
Taking on Dan Evans in the first match of the UTS3 series, de Minaur and the Brit were tied at 12 with four seconds left in their opening quarter. The Australian’s inside-out forehand just clipped the line and from there, the night was all his.
“I had a match with him at the start of the year where that slice gave me nightmares. It's a very deadly slice,” de Minaur reflected during a quarter break. “I've learned how to neutralize it the best way I can. That's something we definitely put a lot of work in this off season.”
De Minaur stormed to a 13-12, 23-9, 21-10, 20-13 victory. Relaxed throughout the encounter, he never felt compelled to play his UTS cards until the latter stages of each quarter, compelling Evans to go to his first on almost every occasion. He also enjoyed an entertaining first coach's timeout with Adolfo Gutierrez, where de Minaur did most of the limited talking over their headsets before busting out in laughter.
“It's different, that's for sure,” he said. “It's very interesting cause I'm not really one to talk too much during a match. I like to keep a level head. This brings an extra element to it.”
After a brief break, De Minaur returned to defeat Pablo Andujar, 23-5, 13-11, 17-13, 18-10, clinching Group A as a result. Andujar, who struggled with which side to play on at times, was due to face Evans in a 'dead' match to close out the session.
On Saturday, Taylor Fritz, Richard Gasquet and Feliciano Lopez face off in a trio of round-robin matches. Gasquet and Lopez previously competed in the first two editions, while Fritz is the first American to take part in the innovative competition. The winner of Group B will meet De Minaur in Sunday’s final.