Demon Defeats Zverev in Controversial Match, Secures 18-Year First, but Aussie Team Out of United Cup

Alex de Minaur had an extra reason to smile after his latest stunning display at the United Cup saw him recover from a set down to beat German star and world No.7 Alexander Zverev in three hard-fought sets, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Not only did he keep Team Australia’s hopes of a tournament final berth alive after Ajla Tomljanovic narrowly lost her women’s singles tie, but it ensured he will enter the ATP top 10 for the first time in his career when the rankings update on Monday.

He’s the first Australian male to rank in the top 10 in singles since mentor Lleyton Hewitt dropped to 11th in the world in February 2006.

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Having been overpowered by the German’s strong serving to lose the first set 5-7, de Minaur dug deep to turn the match around, winning the second and third sets 6-3, 6-4 and clinically serving out the victory after taking an early break in the decider.

A raucous crowd at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney cheered on every point with gusto, the 24-year old’s passionate celebration after calmly putting away a smash to claim match point speaking volumes about what the win meant.

However, the win wasn’t enough to see Australia through to the final, with Ajla Tomljanovic losing a thrilling three-set encounter to Angelique Kerber and Storm Hunter and Matt Ebden losing a somehow even more epic match tie-break in their mixed doubles match to Zverev and Laura Siegemund.

Both held match points in deciding tie-breakers, but the German team held strong to face favourites Poland in Sunday night’s final.

“I love being back home. Thank you guys,” Sydneysider de Minaur told Jim Courier on Nine immediately after the match, triggering another round of cheers.

“I’ve said it before, but every time I step out on court here, it feels special. This is my favourite court in the whole world. Every time I step out here, I get goosebumps. I love being here, and I’m very grateful for all the support.”

De Minaur’s victory is, remarkably, his third straight over a top-10 ranked player at the United Cup, having previously downed world No.10 Taylor Fritz and world No.1 Novak Djokovic, both in straight sets.

Having set himself a goal of a top-10 ranking by the end of 2024, he was delighted when Courier informed him he’d already achieved it just one week into the year.

“It’s what I’ve worked so hard for – another milestone, but it doesn’t finish there. Job’s not done,” de Minaur said.

“We keep on improving, we keep on trying to get better – I’m going to enjoy this Aussie summer, that’s for sure.”

However, the win wasn’t without controversy, with Zverev unlucky to lose a point midway through the second set after de Minaur roared in triumph having mistakenly thought he’d hit a winner.

The Aussie yelled out after hitting a backhand down the line, but Zverev was able to track down the ball, albeit only able to hit into the net; however, the German was quick to complain to the chair umpire that de Minaur should have been penalised for a hindrance.

“He grunted until I hit the ball,” Zverev told the umpire, who disagreed.

“His grunt was longer than usual …no, it wasn’t [a hindrance] Alexander.”

Speaking on Stan Sport, Courier disagreed with the verdict, while former great Wally Masur claimed the umpire had ‘choked’ in not awarding Zverev the point.

“”That’s 100 per cent a hindrance,” Courier said.

“De Minaur wasn’t trying to bother… but he’s [Zverev] that quick, he got there. That should have been Zverev’s point.”

Initially, the Australian seemed incapable of powering through the German’s rock-solid defence, with the indoor conditions in Sydney not helping de Minaur’s game.

However, a powerful forehand down the line, bringing with it another roar as the 24-year old sought to lift the crowd, would prove a turning point, de Minaur breaking Zverev’s serve for the first time in the match and never looking back.