Australia’s Alex de Minaur has become the first teenager since Nick Kyrgios in 2014 to win a grass-court ATP Challenger title after beating Dan Evans in the final in Nottingham.
Evans was chasing the first title of his comeback from a cocaine ban but the British No.2 fell 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 to the 19-year-old, who broke into the top 100 by reaching the final in Surbiton last weekend.
He went one better in the Midlands, coming from 4-2 down to win the first set on a terrific lob that prompted a shout of “too good” from his opponent.
It was Evans who had to dig deep in the second set, saving break points to avoid going a double break down at 0-2 before getting back on serve.
But a double fault on break point at 4-4 handed de Minaur the chance to serve for the title. Evans broke back to keep his hopes alive but was then broken again and this time de Minaur made no mistake.
It was de Minaur’s first Challenger title after four defeats in previous deciders.
“It’s been a win long time (coming),” he told RSN radio.
“I’ve had a couple of finals I wasn’t able to go on to the next step and I’m happy with today. I was finally able to get past that.”
When Kyrgios won his Nottingham title four years ago as a 19-year-old he went on to knock out world No.1 Rafael Nadal in a stunning run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
No one is expecting de Minaur to copy that but he is already one step ahead of his countryman in one aspect – he’s now up to a career-high 78th in the world rankings, while Kyrgios only entered the top 100 after that run at the All England Club.
But de Minaur isn’t yet locked in to play at Wimbledon, though it could only be a matter of days before his place is confirmed.
The Australian is in line to receive a wildcard as a reward for winning an English grass-court tournament.
But if he misses out when those are announced this week he only needs two players to withdraw in the lead-up to get into the main draw.
Either option would save de Minaur from the slog of up to three qualifying matches, enabling him to bottle up the energy he would need to battle some of the world’s best.
The teenager was raised in Spain and played much of his youth on clay courts – yet he feels most at home on the natural surface.
“Before I stepped foot on grass I decided that I was going to enjoy it and that was going to be my favourite surface,” he said.
“At the moment I’m really happy with my level on court. I’m really confident and every time I step out on court I’m playing some great tennis.
“It’s great for me, especially on this surface. I really enjoy the grass and I’m enjoying every second on it.”
Hours after de Minaur won his title, fellow Australian Ash Barty defeated another British hope to claim a WTA championship.