Alex de Minaur has become the first Aussie man since Lleyton Hewitt to make the fourth round of the Australian Open in three consecutive years, but it wasn't to be for Storm Hunter on Friday night. De Minaur was was too good for Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli, living up to his top-10 billing in a 6-3 6-3 6-1 victory.
The Sydneysider is now the first Aussie male since Hewitt in 2003 to 2005 to make the fourth round three years running. Hewitt, who acts as de Minaur's mentor and part-time coach, made the final of the Australian Open in 2005.
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When asked how he felt after matching Hewitt's exploits, de Minaur said he wanted more than a fourth round showing. His best result at a grand slam is his quarter-final appearance at the US Open in 2020.
"First of all, I'll try to get a little bit better and beat my personal best and get to the quarter-finals. That's the first step," he said. "I've made a couple of fourth rounds in the past and maybe have gotten to that point and not played the type of match I wanted to. I'm hoping I can break that barrier and go one further."
De Minaur came into the tournament as the first Aussie man since Hewitt in 2006 to make the top 10 in the world, after wins over Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev in the lead-up. The Aussie will play Andrey Rublev in the fourth round on Sunday after the Russian beat Sebastian Korda 6-2 7-6 (8-6) 6-4.
De Minaur has only dropped one set in three matches so far at Melbourne Park and said he would approach the fourth round with confidence. "I'm the freshest I've felt at this stage of the tournament," he said.
"It's all going to come down to the level I bring in the following match. I've got to back myself up, I've got to believe, got to play positive tennis. I know the whole crowd is going to be behind me and I'm going to enjoy every second of it."
Storm Hunter's dream run comes to crashing halt
De Minaur is the only Australian player left in the singles competition after Hunter coughed up a one-set lead in a 6-4 5-7 3-6 loss to the Czech No.9 seed Barbora Krejcikova later on Friday night. The Aussie qualifier couldn't capitalise on break points in the second set and saw her dream run come to an end.
The World No.1 doubles player can console herself with the $255,000 payday she receives for making the third round, and she's provisionally set to rise to World No.127 in the singles rankings. "I absolutely loved it out there. It was a lot of fun," she said of her tournament.
"Even though I didn't get the win, this whole week has been a win for my singles. I don't want to look at it as disappointing today because I enjoyed every minute. It's not every night you get to play on Rod Laver Arena after Novak and have all the fans out there.
"I'm definitely seeing it as a positive. I've played six really high-quality singles matches here. Any other tournament, that would be probably a win of a tournament."
De Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic have urged her to play more singles. But the 29-year-old mused: "It's definitely a consideration - I wouldn't say it's a consideration right now (because) I think where my rankings are I can still kind of do both at the moment. But there potentially may be that decision down the line."
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