Alex de Minaur left devastated as bizarre move raises eyebrows in Australian Open loss

Tennis fans were all saying the same thing after Andrey Rublev's extraordinary turnaround.

Alex de Minaur, pictured here after his loss to Andrey Rublev at the Australian Open.
Alex de Minaur (L) was left shattered after his loss to Andrey Rublev, which appeared to be sparked by a secret ingredient in his drink (R). Image: Channel 9/Eurosport

Questions are being asked about what Andrey Rublev's team put in his drink bottle at the end of the third set to spark such an extraordinary turnaround in his win over Alex de Minaur at the Australian Open on Sunday night. De Minaur had just taken the third set in a tie-breaker for a 2-1 lead and appeared to have way more in the tank than his opponent.

Rublev headed off court for a toilet break at the end of the set, and when the Russian returned he looked a completely different player. The World No.5 appeared to make a decision not to engage in long rallies with de Minaur, but to stand and deliver winners wherever he could.

'CAN'T DO THAT': Lleyton Hewitt caught in the act during de Minaur match

SURELY NOT: Legend rips 'cheap' Alex de Minaur amid engagement rumours

The change proved a masterstroke as Rublev fired off winner after winner with his huge forehand, going on to leave de Minaur devastated in a 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-0 thriller. Even with Rublev suffering from what appeared to cramp in the fifth set, de Minaur had no answers to the firepower of his opponent.

The dramatic turnaround also came after Rublev's team were spotted hastily pouring something into a drink bottle for him at the end of the fourth set, which commentators suggested was salt. A salty drink is a remedy for cramping, and Rublev's team were likely preparing for their man to start feeling the effects of the marathon match.

But the level of play that Rublev displayed after he received the drink had Aussie fans reaching for their tin foil hats. Many were left wondering if it was just salt that his trainer put in the bottle, and while there is no suggestion of wrongdoing from this publication, it certainly raised a few eyebrows on social media.

It's unlikely that Rublev's team would have been so open and brazen about their actions if they were doing anything untoward. It sparked memories of when Novak Djokovic's team tried to conceal a substance they put into his drink bottle at the Paris Masters in 2022, which only made things look even more suss.

Speaking on Eurosport afterwards, American legend John McEnroe reckoned de Minaur had simply been beaten by a man playing "one of the greatest fifth sets I've ever seen in a grand slam". He said: "It was one of the all-time great efforts by Rublev, who's taken it up to the next level. De Minaur wanted it so bad - it's a damn shame he lost but, unfortunately, someone has got to."

Andrey Rublev's team, pictured here adding salt to his water.
Andrey Rublev was a completely different player after having the salt drink. Image: Eurosport

Alex de Minaur left devastated after Australian Open exit

De Minaur looked inconsolable after the match, with girlfriend Katie Boulter spotted embracing him in the locker room afterwards. The World No.10 has never made it past the fourth round of his home grand slam, but came into the tournament dreaming big after wins over Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev in the lead-up.

"Maybe a couple years ago or even last year, I would be sitting here, maybe even happy with the result, saying, I probably shouldn't have won, he's higher ranked than I am, I took him to five sets, pretty decent effort," de Minaur said in his press conference. "But it's completely changed because now I'm sitting here and I'm absolutely devastated because I saw it as a great opportunity and a match I strongly believed I could have won. But it just slipped away.

Alex de Minaur, pictured here being consoled by girlfriend Katie Boulter after his loss at the Australian Open.
Alex de Minaur was consoled by girlfriend Katie Boulter after his loss at the Australian Open. Image: Channel 9

"It's not a match that I thought I lost physically. It was just that the racquet was taken out of my hand. He was just standing and hitting from every single part of the court at just mach 10. That's probably the most disappointing part of the whole match.

"I do think I've made a lot of steps in the right direction. I think my level is quite there. Against top-10 opponents this year, I'm 3-1. It's not the worst of things. I was very close today. I'm doing the right things."

with AAP

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.