Alex de Minaur in classy gesture for Rafa Nadal after Aussie creates tennis history

The tennis world has hailed the Aussie after the extraordinary scenes.

Alex de Minaur's classy post-match gesture for Rafa Nadal has been hailed around the tennis world after the World No.11 created history by beating the Spaniard at the Barcelona Open. The 'King of clay' is a 12-time champion at the tournament and centre court bears Nadal's name, such has been his dominance there over the years.

But de Minaur was able to do what no other Aussie has ever managed in history by beating the 22-time grand slam winner on clay to book his spot in the round of 16. The injury-plagued Nadal wasn't at his sharpest in what was just his second tournament in 15 months and de Minaur took advantage by claiming an impressive 7-5 6-1 win that the Aussie described as a "once in a lifetime" feat.

Alex de Minaur was praised for his classy gesture towards Rafa Nadal after beating the Spaniard at the Barcelona Open. Pic: Getty
Alex de Minaur was praised for his classy gesture towards Rafa Nadal after beating the Spaniard at the Barcelona Open. Pic: Getty

Despite Nadal's tentative return from injury, nothing should detract from de Minaur's victory, with the Aussie utilising his supreme pace, court coverage and shot selection to devastating effect. It wasn't the all-conquering Nadal of old but the 37-year-old is still a force on the red clay that he has made his own over more than two decades.

And de Minaur had to be at the top of his game to edge the 12-time champion during a tense first set on the Pista Rafa Nadal centre court in Barcelona. The Aussie made his game-plan clear from the get-go, running the Spaniard around the court as much as possible and testing out the home town hero's physical condition.

On the very first point of the match, de Minaur showed there was no room for sentiment after playing a sublime drop shot that Nadal had no answer to. And it was a sign of what was to come as the World No.11 successfully employed the tactic on another five occasions in the first three games alone.

Alex de Minaur's gesture for Rafa Nadal praised by fans

De Minaur was rapid, ruthless and relentless in what may well be the last match Nadal ever plays on the court named in his honour and in what many have tipped will be the final season of his glorious career. But De Minaur was all class after the match, showing the Spaniard the respect he deserves by joining in the round of applause for Nadal and not over-celebrating his win in scenes praised across the tennis world.

Alex de Minaur creates Aussie tennis history

De Minaur's triumph saw him become the first Aussie man in 13 attempts to ever beat Nadal on clay and the 25-year-old admitted afterwards that it was a special moment. "When the draw came out, I probably wasn't too keen on playing Rafa, but I turned my attitude around and looked at it like a huge opportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity," De Minaur said.

"I'm extremely happy that I was able to get the win. I'm very, very fortunate I didn't play Rafa a couple years earlier on the clay. It would have been very, very different result. An amazing experience and we move on. It's been a great year."

The key game in the first set came at 5-5 when de Minaur went on the attack and broke to love, before going on to serve out the set after a run of 11 unanswered winning points. Nadal committed a whopping 42 unforced errors in the match and the six games he won marked the Spaniard's worst return in Barcelona since a 6-2 6-4 loss to Alexander Zverev in 2019 when he also won just six games.

Rafa Nadal waves to fans after crashing out of the Barcelona Open at the hands of Alex de Minaur. Pic: Getty
Rafa Nadal waves to fans after crashing out of the Barcelona Open at the hands of Alex de Minaur. Pic: Getty


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But Nadal insisted that he had taken a significant "step forward" in his comeback from a long injury lay-off in preparation for a crack at a record-extending 15th French Open title next month. "I am leaving convinced that I have taken a step forward, it was not today where I had to be well, where I had to leave everything and die for it," Nadal insisted. "I have to give myself the option to do this in a few weeks, at least try.

"If I had died at a general level today, I would never have the opportunity to do so in a few weeks, so I have to play according to the objective I have. I have to measure according to how I feel, so I will play in Madrid according to this factor. If my body responds and I accumulate good training, I will be able to take a step forward in Madrid. If my body is capable of assimilating the loads progressively, that has to help me to demand more and more from it, but I don't know.

"On a logical level, the idea is to progress, but I'm not talking about winning games, but rather at the level of fighting for things. In Madrid, do a little better, in Rome a little more... and in Paris let it be whatever God wants. That's the time to try it."

The win for de Minaur sees the Aussie set up a last-16 encounter with rising 16th seed Arthur Fils, who beat German Daniel Altmaier 6-4 1-6 6-1. On a good day for the Aussies, Jordan Thompson also made it into the round of 16, defeating Spain's clay-court specialist Jaume Munar 6-4 2-6 6-4. Thompson next faces Norwegian third seed, Casper Ruud.

with AAP