Australia’s No.1, Alex de Minaur, the second seed at the Viking International at Eastbourne, won his maiden grass court title and the fifth of his career, after recovering from a set down to beat third seed and the world No.27 from Italy, Lorenzo Sonego, 4-6 6-4 7-6(5).
It’s a lot of relief, a lot of excitement. It’s been a long week, I’ve played some great tennis and managed to pull through with a very tough win today. Hopefully, I can keep it going through Wimbledon – I can’t wait, Alex de Minaur
In what proved a pulsating two hour and 42-minute final, the 22-year-old Aussie completes an impressive run in his build up to Wimbledon – which has also seen him reach the semi-finals at Queen’s last week and the quarter-finals of Stuttgart the week before – by lifting his fifth career ATP Tour trophy. The win will see him rise to a new career high ranking of No.15 in the world.
A hot contest in every sense of the term was always going to boil down to the finest of margins. Equally poised at a set all neither player gave an inch with zero break points offered by the pair, eventually requiring a tie-break in the decider to separate them.
De Minaur struck the first blow in the tie-break, edging ahead with a mini break, but the 26-year-old Italian hit back immediately with one of the shots of the day, a passing forehand hit on the tightest of angles.
At 5-5 the Australian received a time violation from umpire Fergus Murphy which he shrugged off by playing a perfect point for 6-5, raising match point with a winning volley.
On championship point and sensing his moment on the second serve, De Minaur, the title favourite, once again found his way to the net to comfortably tuck away an overhead for his victory.
“If you want to beat Lorenzo, you have to play your best tennis,” he told spectators in his on-court interview after his win.
“It’s a lot of relief, a lot of excitement. It’s been a long week, I’ve played some great tennis and managed to pull through with a very tough win today.
“Hopefully, I can keep it going through Wimbledon – I can’t wait,” added de Minaur, who will play young American Sebastian Korda in the first round on Monday.
“I had to pull through all the mental strength I had to win that match,” the Aussie continued. “I had to tell myself to try to be a bit more aggressive and go to win it, not just wait there for him to lose it – because he was definitely not going to do that.
“It’s given me exactly what I wanted to do this week – play some great tennis and get ready for Wimby. But though I’ve had an unbelievable week here, I have to switch the mindset real quick to Wimby.”
And looking ahead to Monday he knows he is in for another tough battle in his opener with Korda, son of former world No.2 Petr Korda, the 1998 Australian Open champion.
“Korda’s a hell of a player,” De Minaur said. “He’s been showing that he can play on every surface and especially lately on grass, he’s been putting together some very high quality wins and it’s going to be an incredibly tough match.”
Sonego dedicated his runner-up trophy to his grandmother who sadly passed away two weeks ago. “She was my best fan.” the Italian told the crowd in an emotional speech before adding he believed De Minaur would go a long way at Wimbledon.
“He has a good chance at Wimbledon because if the courts are faster like this, it’s better for him because he returns so good,” the Italian said. “He plays so good on grass, he can have a really good tournament at Wimbledon for sure.”