By Marc McGowan
Alex de Minaur’s chase for a maiden Masters 1000 title continues after he lost to big-striking Italian star Jannik Sinner in the Canadian Open final on Monday.
The Sydneysider had already beaten top-10 rivals Daniil Medvedev and Taylor Fritz in a breakthrough week, after also upsetting 11th-seeded Brit and former world No.8 Cam Norrie just to get out of the first round.
Alex de Minaur made a competitive start to the Toronto final, but conceded afterwards that Jannik Sinner was too good.Credit: USA TODAY SPORTS
De Minaur was bidding to become Australia’s first Masters 1000 champion since Lleyton Hewitt won at Indian Wells two decades ago, but found Sinner’s weight of shot too much to overcome in a 6-4, 6-1 defeat in the 89-minute final.
However, it was a successful fortnight for the Australian, who also lost an ATP 250 final the previous week in Los Cabos, Mexico, to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
De Minaur had never been beyond the last 16 in a Masters 1000 event previously and will be rewarded for his Toronto run with a six-spot climb to a career-high ranking of No.12 as he closes on his top-10 goal.
“It was one of those days when you kind of have to execute perfectly, and it’s not that I played badly – he was just very good today,” de Minaur told this masthead.
“I needed to raise my level a bit more and just wasn’t able to. Sometimes, you just have to say ‘too good’. [But] I’m in a good headspace, and can see things quite clearly now.
“I know I’m going in the right direction. The fact I’m basically back on court on Tuesday [in Cincinnati] doesn’t really allow me to fully reflect and enjoy the week, so I’ll stay more in a locked-in mindset – and I have to. It was the same coming from Cabos. It’s been a couple of long weeks.”
De Minaur starts his Cincinnati Masters campaign against American J.J. Wolf and could have a rematch with Norrie in the second round before a projected third-round clash with No.2 seed Novak Djokovic.
However the 24-year-old’s week ahead unfolds, he is planning a couple of days off afterwards – likely involving some golf – before completing the final few days of his US Open preparation in New York.
Sinner is one of the sport’s rising stars and tipped to be a major part of the post-Novak Djokovic era.Credit: USA TODAY SPORTS
“It’s safe to say I’m very much looking forward to that week off [next week], but Cinci’ provides another chance for another good week, so hopefully I can keep the ball rolling,” he said.
“It’s been a couple of good weeks, and I like where my level is at, so it’s about arriving in New York feeling refreshed, physically and mentally, to get ready for best-of-five [sets] and hopefully a deep run, but it all depends on the draws you get. There are a lot of variables, but I will do my best.”
De Minaur will rise to No.12 in the rankings.Credit: USA TODAY SPORTS
De Minaur’s best result at the US Open was reaching the quarter-finals at the COVID-19-impacted edition three years ago.
Sinner, coached by Australian Darren Cahill and considered one of the sport’s top talents, joins Fabio Fognini as the only Italians to win a Masters 1000 singles trophy and jumps to No.6 in the new rankings.
De Minaur spoke pre-final about needing to produce plenty of variety to disrupt the smooth-moving Sinner’s power game and have any shot of upsetting his close friend for the first time in their fifth meeting.
The pair practice regularly together and played doubles in Toronto, losing a tight match in the opening round to eventual title-winners Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer. De Minaur gave Sinner little pace to work with in rallies, an approach that, at least temporarily, rattled the Italian, who committed more errors than he would have liked in the first set.
But Sinner still always seemed in control. The Australian twice pulled back breaks and knotted the opening set at four-all when Sinner missed a down-the-line forehand wide.
The downside to de Minaur’s tactic was he was unable to dictate many of the points, hitting just one winner in the first set and three for the match compared to 21 unforced errors.
Sinner found his range from the ninth game and ran away with the contest, blasting almost half of his 15 winners off his favoured forehand wing. De Minaur held from 0-30 to start the second set, but became increasingly frustrated at his inability to gain a foothold in the contest and that was the only game he could muster.
News, results and expert analysis from the weekend of sport sent every Monday. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.