Rafa expects tough de Minaur ATP Cup test

Murray Wenzel
·2-min read

Alex de Minaur pushed Rafael Nadal to uncomfortable emotional heights last year and the Spanish world No.2 expects an ever greater test against the improving Australia this week.

The host nation will begin its ATP Cup campaign against Nadal's star-studded Spanish outfit on Tuesday night at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena, before meeting Greece on Wednesday.

De Minaur took the first set off the Spaniard, who eventually prevailed in an intense semi-final that contributed to de Minaur missing the Australian Open after picking up an abdominal injury.

"(It was a) very emotional match, not great for me, but an emotional one, yes," Nadal said of their last ATP Cup meeting.

"He's young, he's improving every year, he has lot of things amazing.

"It's going to be a tough battle for all of us playing against a great team like Australia so let's see if we are able to get ready for it."

Nadal, now 34 and boasting 20 major titles, rarely plays in the week before a major tournament but had no choice this year thanks to quarantine and a re-jigged lead-up schedule that features six simultaneous tournaments across the men's and women's tours.

"It is different circumstances than last year, very unusual situation for most of us but here I am, the same like the rest of the team, to try our best in every moment," he said.

World No.23 de Minaur will partner John Millman (No.38) in the teams event this week, Millman edging Nick Kyrgios after his ranking dropped to 47 in the world when he opted to stop competing during the coronavirus pandemic last year.

De Minaur won Turkey's Antalya Open to begin the year, before a two-week hotel quarantine on his arrival to Australia.

He is confident that won't slow his progress though as he looks to build on a maiden grand slam quarter-final appearance at the US Open last year.

"I started off the year really well, now we've had a couple weeks during quarantine to kind of prepare and look at different aspects of my game to kind of tweak, get ready for the Australian summer of tennis," the 21-year-old said.

"I feel like I'm ready; I'm really looking forward to going out there and stepping out on court and competing in Australia.

"It's been a long time coming so I'm very pumped, that's for sure."

Action begins earlier on Tuesday when Serbia play Canada and Austria play Italy, while Russia meet Argentina on Tuesday night.