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Australian tennis player Alex de Minaur will carry momentum into Wimbledon after qualifying for the final at Eastbourne.
Australia's No.1, who reached the Stuttgart quarter-finals and the Queen's Club Championship semis, continued his increasingly authoritative form on his favourite grass surface by beating Korean Soonwoo Kwon 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in Friday's semi-final.
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His only real moment of concern, apart from playing a careless game when serving for the match at 5-4 to allow the outclassed Kwon a brief stay of execution, came when he slid awkwardly on the grass and tweaked his groin.
"I was lucky there. Obviously a little bit of a scare, but there was no drama," he reported.
The 22-year-old capped his incredible run of form with an unbelievable point which saw him sprinting back and forth from the baseline to the net, eventually besting his Korean opponent.
De Minaur had to dart from the backhand corner to the net to chase a short shot from Kwon, barely keeping his balance and not clattering into the net, before charging back to return the subsequent lob.
A third sprint back to the net saw him bank the point and roar in celebration.
“How did he not touch the net earlier on in the point? That was extraordinary from Alex De Minaur,” the commentator exclaimed.
“I think Kwon was almost half-heartedly playing the rest of the point because he couldn’t believe it was still happening," another continued.
It set up a maiden grass-court final on Saturday for De Minaur against Italian No.3 seed Lorenzo Sonego, who had earlier repelled a brave challenge from another Sydneysider, Max Purcell, the week's surprise packet, 6-1 3-6 6-1.
The world No.18 is hoping to enter the ATP's top 15 rankings after Wimbledon.
Alex de Minaur wins through to Eastbourne final
De Minaur's victory was sealed in a tiebreak during which he won an amazing point, showing a gymnast's balance to avoid touching the net when chasing down a shot, then scuttling back from a standing start to acrobatically retrieve a lob before putting away a backhand winner.
"I got lucky there, I was very close to touching the net - but I was able to play a great point," he said later, reflecting on the moment he brought the house down at Devonshire Park.
"I'm very happy, playing some great tennis, enjoying this time of the year, loving playing on the grass courts and feeling very welcomed.
"The plan is to go deep at Wimbledon, that's what I've been working on, I'm playing some great tennis every week and I can't wait to play at Wimby," added de Minaur, who just shrugged about his tough first round draw at the grand slam against rising star Sebastian Korda.
He's too busy worrying about the ever-improving world No.27 Sonego to think of the young American yet.
"Sonego is a hell of a competitor who's already won a title on grass (in Antalya 2019) but it's another challenge, another chance for me to go out there and have a swing."
If de Minaur wins his fifth title - the other four all came on hard courts - he'll move into the world's top 15 for the first time in his career.
"I said from the start of the year I wanted to make 2021 everything 2020 wasn't. I like where I am right now and the plan is to continue to play at this level and see how far I can go," said de Minaur.
Sonego was full of praise for Purcell, the world No.283 who was struggling with a back injury which forced him to take a medical timeout after being hammered in the first set, yet still fought back to win the second with some swashbuckling counter-attacking tennis.
"Max is a great player, he played unbelievable at the net," said the Italian of his never-say-die 23-year-old opponent who'd only ever won one ATP tour match at the start of this week but has now won three more in just four days as he made his maiden semi-final.
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