Alex de Minaur is looking forward to flying the flag for Australia.
Alex de Minaur is looking forward to flying the flag for Australia.

The new Hewitt spearheading our Davis Cup revival

A TOUCH over a year ago Alex de Minaur was preparing to qualify for the Australian Open. He was 18-years-old, 139 in the global rankings and largely unknown.

Much, arguably everything, has changed since.

On Friday afternoon, Australia's No.1 tennis player and world No.28 iwill step on court at Adelaide's Memorial Drive buoyed by not just promise but some expectation too.

He promises to handle it well.

Staggeringly, he has already played 11 competitive matches this year, dusting off the Sydney International title and making it to the last 32 at the Australian Open where only an imperious Rafael Nadal stopped him in his tracks.

He is an unusual position, heralded as the next big thing of Australian tennis yet, so far, is without a win in the competition he clearly cherishes, the Davis Cup.

A standout debut against Germany 12 months ago - he so nearly ousted world No.4 Alexander Zverev - was followed up by defeats on clay in Austria last September immediately post US Open.

"Making my Davis Cup debut is a moment I'll never forget. It's something I have dreamt of as a little kid. I just used the location (Brisbane) and the crowd, everything and left it all out there," de Minaur said.

Alex De Minaur practises at Memorial Drive this week under the watchful eye of Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt ahead of the Davis Cup tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
Alex De Minaur practises at Memorial Drive this week under the watchful eye of Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt ahead of the Davis Cup tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

"It was heartbreaking because I was so close but you learn from these things and learn for the next one."

He is a perfect prototype for the new generation Lleyton Hewitt fold: hard working, driven, disciplined.

"He does everything right on and off the court, he is professional, he wants to learn which is the best thing for me because they're the easiest guys to work with," says Davis Cup captain Hewitt.

"I have had him stay at my house for the past two years. He tries to absorb as much as possible and he wants to learn and he wants it now, he doesn't want to wait until next week, he wants to get it now.

"So for me he has been the perfect pupil that I feel I can interact with and have that mentoring relationship with him. It helps when he is a very similar style player to me too."

De Minaur says Hewitt has revived the Davis Cup spirit that saw Australia dominate men's tennis in the 1950s and '60s.

Alex de Minaur during the Australian Open. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Alex de Minaur during the Australian Open. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

"There is a great camaraderie between the Auusie players at the moment and we're all wanting the best for each other, we're all hitting with each other, all watching each other's matches," he said.

"We all want the best for each other and that's why at the moment Australian tennis is in such a great spot, we have got a lot of players and it's just great to see our guys in the top 40 and the people that are coming."

Sydeny raised, de Minaur is far from the conventional Australian tennis player, based much of the year in Alicante on Spain's southeast coast but always an Aussie.

"I was born here and have always felt Australian and there is no greater honour than to represent my country."

He has the tools, and despite a slight build (at 183cm he is taller than he looks) is fast.

Alex De Minaur is consoled by Rafael Nadal after losing in the third round at the Australian Open. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Alex De Minaur is consoled by Rafael Nadal after losing in the third round at the Australian Open. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

"He's super quick, he likes to go inside the court fast," Nadal said. "He's young, he has that extra energy that the young guys have. Always a dangerous match."

Using his speed to be more versatile is imperative says de Minaur.

"I feel like every day is a different day and a different opponent and you have to find a way so that's something from little I have always had to learn because I was never the biggest or the strongest guy or the tallest," he said.

"I have always had to find a way to win so that court craft has really helped me be the player that I am right now and helped me in a lot of matches this year.

"I don't think I am the quickest (in the gym) but once I am on court and chasing that ball it just gives me that extra push."

Alex De Minaur hits up at Memorial Drive this week. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
Alex De Minaur hits up at Memorial Drive this week. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

Picture perfect he may be - de Minaur has a smiley, matey presence - he is far from anodyne, a Twitter clip of him dancing at a nightclub in Melbourne post Open knockout was dubbed "the greatest thing I have seen on the internet this week".

Off court, there are golf and soccer interests, his team is Real Madrid he says.

"My mum is originally from Madrid and she is a hardcore fan," de Minaur said.

But tennis prevails, headlines that he is the new Lleyton are not wholly unfair says the real deal.

"It's probably because people have waited for it a little in Australia too since I was at my peak, guys have probably been waiting for someone to come along and lay it on the line, week in week out."