Car fanatic Alex de Minaur gears up for awaited Australian Open return

Car fanatic Alex de Minaur gears up for awaited Australian Open return

Alex de Minaur, who is back in Australia for the first time since suffering an abdominal injury last January, will head into next month's ATP Cup and Happy Slam with a 2021 title in hand.

Alex de Minaur is a self-described car fanatic. Respecting both the classics and modern novelties, his passion for automobiles has few limitations.

De Minaur’s current baby is a 1973 Mini 850 Deluxe. From the outside, its design catches the eye through its alluring evergreen coat and compact shape. This was not the case a few years ago, for plenty of work was required inside and out to become a polished set of wheels. As De Minaur’s infatuation with his ride developed, the compromises of driving a vintage vehicle were overridden by his willingness to shift gears.

“I got it basically broken down and restored the inside. It's one of the most fun cars to drive,” De Minaur told earlier this week in Antalya. “I enjoy driving it as much as I can. And it always puts a smile on my face.

“It is just iconic. Obviously, no air conditioning, no radio, no stereo. At the moment I have a wireless Bluetooth speaker, which I've got in the backseat. And that's how I get my music.”

Alex de Minaur

When he’s not in the driver’s seat, De Minaur continues to hone his wheels on the court. And like everyone else in 2020, the Australian was required to shift gears.

His year kicked off with a bang at the inaugural ATP Cup, where De Minaur dazzled by posting Top 15 wins over Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov, before teaming up with Nick Kyrgios to save four match points against Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury in a winner-take-all doubles match. But following a three-set loss to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals three days later, he was abruptly forced to downshift. An abdominal tear denied De Minaur the opportunity to defend his title in Adelaide (event moved from Sydney), and he was subsequently ruled out of his home major.

The 21 -year-old was back on tour for just one week when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the ATP to suspend its season for five months. De Minaur quarantined in Spain and kept his followers updated on Instagram through a series of golf-themed videos. When he returned to action in mid-August, De Minaur picked up a trophy—though not the kind he expected.

Sporting a summer ‘stache for the second straight year in Queens, De Minaur won his first ATP doubles title with Pablo Carreno Busta at the relocated Western & Southern Open. Building off an unlikely source of momentum at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and playing behind closed doors, the Sydney native improved upon his 2019 US Open round-of-16 showing by reaching a major quarterfinal for the first time. His horsepower was ultimately no match for the raw power presented by eventual champion Dominic Thiem, but on reflection four months later, De Minaur has plenty of optimism that more big occasions will come in 2021.

“Well, basically the level's there. I want to be pushing second weeks of majors and going deep,” he said. “And that's where I want to see myself. Now, it's just about trying to go match by match and keep believing in myself. Keep putting myself in those positions to be playing the best guys in the world.”

Getty Images

A 7-3 finish, highlighted by a runner-up effort in Antwerp, closed out a year like no other. Accustomed to doing his pre-season training blocks in Australia, De Minaur rolled with the circumstances by preparing in Alicante. The conditions were noticeably different—colder temperatures, less daylight to work with—a contributing factor toward De Minaur's eagerness to fire up his engine again. When the ATP announced its restructured 2021 calendar, he entered a tournament slotted in the opening week, the Antalya Open.

“It [was] a long pre-season, a lot of weeks without playing, probably a bit longer than normal. So it gets to the point where the body, the mind, just says enough is enough,” De Minaur said. “You're ready to kind of put everything you've been working on in practice onto the court. If it gives you a couple matches, it never hurts.”

A couple matches turned into four completed contests. De Minaur won eight of the nine sets he played in making the final, and was crowned champion two games in when Alexander Bublik retired with a right ankle injury. Not long after his fourth tour-level triumph, De Minaur flew home for the first time in just under a year. Following a 14-day hotel quarantine that all international arrivals will undergo, De Minaur will reprise his role at the ATP Cup, where 14 of the Top 15 are expected to represent their nations as part of a reduced 12-country field in Melbourne.

“I'm gonna get the best level matches I could have ever asked for,” De Minaur said. “Every player I'm gonna be playing is going to be ranked basically Top 15, a higher ranking than me. It's just going to be very tough start and a good way to see where you're at leading into the Aussie.”

Getty Images

If all goes to plan for Tennis Australia organizers, De Minaur will have some form of home support behind him at Melbourne Park for the event that’s been on his radar the last 12 months, the Australian Open. When thinking about the prospect, the ATP's Australian No. 1 lights up the same way he does when discussing his beloved car. Or his best buddy Enzo, a golden De Minaur claims has doubled or tripled in size, yet still believes is a puppy. Most of De Minaur's followers would probably be pleased to learn he doesn't share the same enthusiasm with his questionable mustache of the past, which for now, has been left behind in 2020.

“Unless I'm having a very, very rough year. But really doubt the ‘stache is coming back. I'm gonna put that one away. That's gonna be my plan. It's dead, let's just say that.”