#NextGenATP star Alex de Minaur broke through in a major way in 2018, climbing from No. 208 in the ATP Rankings to No. 31, completing his year by reaching the championship match at the Next Gen ATP Finals. One thing he did not accomplish last season was lifting his first ATP Tour trophy, despite reaching finals in Sydney and Washington, D.C.
De Minaur has wasted little time in 2019 before checking that box, winning two matches on Saturday against Gilles Simon and then Andreas Seppi to triumph at the Sydney International. The Aussie No. 1 spoke to ATPTour.com after his victory:
You’ve won your first ATP Tour title in your hometown. What does that mean to you?
It’s very special. I’ve grown up on these courts and being able to play in front of friends and family, that’s always special. But to get my first win, it’s one of those memories I’ll never forget.
How much extra motivation did you have today after coming up just short in Sydney and Washington last year?
It’s good that the third time I came lucky. That’s something that has been tough. I’ve played a lot of finals and they haven’t gone my way. So the amount of relief I got after winning today, I was finally able to just let go. I’m really looking forward to what’s next.
You’re still a teenager and today you beat two 34-year-olds. How did you outplay Andreas Seppi, who only played one match today?
It was a really tough match. I had to be really tough and just keep digging myself out of trouble and keep fighting and try to make it as tough as I could for him and I was able to take care of my chances and that is what got the job done at the end.
Your semi-final against Gilles Simon was delayed all day Friday and ultimately postponed to Saturday. What did you do to pass the time?
I played table tennis. That’s something that I’ve been doing a lot of this week and it’s definitely helped me.
Lleyton Hewitt is your mentor and now you’re the youngest Sydney champion since he won in 2001. How important has Hewitt been in your development?
Extremely important and what he’s done as a mentor to me, it’s priceless. He’s gone through every single experience or position as a tennis player you could go through. Just to keep learning from him and using every day as another opportunity to learn more. He’s definitely really helping me out.
Your first ATP Tour match win (2017), final (2018) and title (2019) have all come in Sydney. How have you handled the pressure of playing in front of friends and family so well?
I just thrive here. I love playing here in Sydney. The crowd is unbelievable and I know they’ve got my back, so it just makes you want to go out there, compete and have fun.
You were ranked 208th entering 2018 and now you’re the No. 1 Aussie and seeded at the Australian Open. What about your game has improved in the last year?
I think a lot of it is just mentally, my belief. I started to believe in myself. I started to believe that I belong with these top players and I think when you have those couple things going for you, it’s very dangerous what you can do as a player, especially when nowadays so much of [tennis] is mental.
Now that you’ve captured your first ATP title in the second week of the season, what are your goals for the rest of 2019?
To hopefully keep playing the same tennis that I played this week and to keep playing my brand of tennis and keep having fun and keep improving.
In Melbourne next week, is being more of a favourite than last year a different kind of pressure?
I don’t see really myself as a favourite. It’s still another tennis match, anything can happen, and I’m just going out there like any other match, putting myself in the best possible position to perform and going to leave it all out there and that’s everything I can ask for of myself.
The Sydney International dates back to 1885, but if you return in 2020, it will be for the ATP Cup. Has it hit you that you may be the last champion in tournament history?
That’s crazy. It’s a tournament that has been here for a very long time. I haven’t really thought about it, but it makes it that much more special.