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Sport

From clown shoes to quarter-finals: Aussie De Minaur savours breakthrough

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Australia’s Alex de Minaur once struggled to grow into his body as a tennis player but the tenacious 21-year-old feels himself a snug fit in the U.S. Open quarter-finals.

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De Minaur made his first Grand Slam quarter-final on Monday with a 7-6(6) 6-3 6-2 win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, giving Australia a player to rally around in the absence of women’s world number one Ash Barty.

“At the end of the day, this is where I want to be, and this is where I truly believe I belong, second weeks of Slams and going deep,” De Minaur told reporters after setting up a clash with second seed Dominic Thiem.

The man nicknamed “Demon” has turned heads since 2018 when he made the third round of Wimbledon on his main draw debut and eclipsed tempestuous talent Nick Kyrgios as Australia’s number one before turning 20.

His court speed and never-say-die game have also endeared him to fans weary of Kyrgios’s lapses in effort.

Behind De Minaur’s rise has been plenty of hard work, though, and waiting for his body to catch up with his aspirations.

“As a young kid, I was probably 11 or 12 and already had the same size (11) foot I have right now,” he said.

“So it felt like (I was) a little kid with clown shoes on. I didn’t have the best footwork, the best movement.

“So it was just a lot of work, especially in technique of

movement from a young age.”

At 6 feet (1.83m) tall, De Minaur is the shortest player in the last eight but stands out as an all-court scrapper among baseline beanpoles like Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, who are tipped to dominate the game’s future with raw power.

Toppling three-times Grand Slam finalist Thiem will be a big ask for De Minaur, who joked he would prefer to “blast people off the court” if he could.

“This running thing gets tiring,” he smiled.

“I’ve got to deal with what God gave me. He didn’t give me the best physique, I’m not as strong or as tall as other people so I have to find ways to win. That’s the way I win.

“I want that to be my brand of tennis. I want people in the locker-room to know that if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to have to go through me.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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