Just 24 hours after he had put veteran warrior Rafael Nadal to the sword, Alex de Minaur may have felt just a little old himself as he was shot down by a new tennis sensation at the Barcelona Open.

The Australia number one was swept aside 7-5, 6-2 in his last-16 tie by the flamboyant teenager Arthur Fils, who is France’s great new hope to break a 41-year grand slam-winning drought in the men’s game. 

It was also a chastening day on the red clay for Australia’s number two Jordan Thompson at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona on Thursday as his bid to make the quarterfinals was ruthlessly ended by double French Open finalist Casper Ruud, who powered to 6-1, 6-4 victory.

De Minaur had little time to savour his win over Nadal, which may have been the great man’s farewell to one of his favourite tournaments and the centre court that’s named in his honour, as he discovered again how quickly the landscape changes in tennis.

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At 25, the world number 11 de Minaur may be coming into his prime as a player but, in the prize-fighter shape of 19-year-old Fils, here was evidence that the next generation of tennis young guns is already on hand to torment him. 

Fils is number 36 in the world and rising fast.

After being the hunter on Pista Rafa Nadal, de Minaur found himself the quarry on Pista Andres Gimeno as Fils, who had been 5-3 down in the opening set and was getting schooled by the Australian, burst to life to reel off seven games on the bounce.

Getting a little overpowered, and finding that the drop shots that had proved too much for Nadal were getting punished by the blistering speed of Fils, it was only de Minaur’s famed battling spirit that kept him in the match as the Frenchman’s army of fans at courtside enjoyed it all with noisy abandon.

At 5-1 down in the second after having lost nine of the previous 10 games, de Minaur showed defiance to break back and then save a match point, but Fils would not be denied as he wrapped up victory in an hour and 35 minutes to book a quarter-final date with Serbian Dušan Lajović. 

Thompson struggled with blisters to his racquet hand early on as he attempted vainly to cope with the clean hitting of Norway’s Ruud, who raced into a 5-0 lead before the Aussie number two could get a grip.

The Sydneysider made more of a fight of it in the second stanza, but Ruud broke him for the third time before going on to his 26th win of 2024, the most of any player this season, one clear of Jannik Sinner. 

Australia’s hopes for the singles were done and dusted.


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Posted 2h ago2 hours agoThu 18 Apr 2024 at 9:29pm, updated 3m ago3 minutes agoThu 18 Apr 2024 at 11:53pm