Pat Rafter's staggering call on Alex de Minaur amid 26-year first for Aussie tennis

The Sydneysider is the first Australian male to reach the top-10 in the ATP rankings since Lleyton Hewitt.

Pat Rafter and Alex de Minaur.
Pat Rafter reckons Alex de Minaur has finally figured it out. Image: Getty

Pat Rafter has made the stunning call that Alex de Minaur can make it all the way to the Australian Open final. De Minaur officially entered the top 10 of the ATP rankings this week - the first time an Australian men's player has reached the top 10 since Lleyton Hewitt in 2006.

The Aussie star took down top-10 players Taylor Fritz, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev at the United Cup last week, making a huge statement ahead of his home grand slam. And according to Aussie legend Rafter, there's no reason why de Minaur can't make a deep run into the second week.

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"The match he played against Zverev, I thought, hang on, this kid's starting to really get it," Rafter told AAP. "To beat Zverev when he's at his top and now he's top 10."

De Minaur reached out to Rafter to pick his brain last year in an attempt to end his frustrating run at grand slam level. The Sydneysider has only made one quarter-final at a slam in his career.

"To only reach one quarter by now, that surprises me," Rafter said. "I thought he would have done better than that and I think that starts now, semis, finals, definitely."

Rafter won the US Open twice but also lost two Wimbledon finals. He reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open once, and reckons de Minaur has finally figured it out.

De Minaur said his staggering run of form has been fuelled by doubters who say he hasn't got the strength and firepower to match it with the world's best. But Rafter doesn't think de Minaur's form has come about because he's gotten stronger.

"If anything he's probably just become a fraction more patient," he said. "He's backing himself a bit more. Not making as many mistakes, backing himself a bit more to stay in rallies.

"Alex has tried to step up and hit the ball really hard, really big. I think he just needed to take that step back and be a fraction more patient."

Alex de Minaur, pictured here after his win over Alexander Zverev at the United Cup.
Alex De Minaur celebrates after his win over Alexander Zverev at the United Cup. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Alex de Minaur leads 26-year first for Australian men's tennis

De Minaur is determined to change his fortunes at grand slam level, and what better place to do so than at your home tournament. "That will be the dream, that's for sure," he said about potentially making the semis or final.

"All the work that I put in, ultimately it comes down to performing at the slams and going deep at the slams. That's been a goal of mine for a while now, trying to push in, push second week of slams and deep end of these tournaments and it's exactly where I want to be.

"I've had a great prep and hopefully I can show the same level I have when the tournament starts. Not just to do it in two-set matches, to bring it for a whole four, five hours if need be."

De Minaur is one of 10 Australian male players currently inside the world's top 111. Australian tennis hasn't enjoyed such a feat since eight Aussies including Rafter finished inside the top 100 in 1998.

That year Rafter, Mark Philippoussis, Jason Stoltenberg, Richard Fromberg, Scott Draper, Andrew Ilie, Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge were all inside the top 60 of the rankings. "We felt it and we had so much fun - these guys don't know how much fun we had," Rafter said. "We looked after each other, pushed each other."

with AAP

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