Alex de Minaur has savoured his best win on the Roland Garros clay, adamant the five-hour wait to earn it in the Parisian cold and drizzle was testament to his new harder-edged mentality and clay-court nous.

The Australian number one and his young American hot-shot opponent, Alex Michelsen, had to hang around for an age, including a false start when they actually came on to Court Simmone Mathieu and were dragged off again before even getting the chance to warm up.

But when they finally did get going, with de Minaur wearing a thermal undershirt to keep out the cold on a damp, miserable day, he still lit up Roland Garros’s most beautiful “garden” court with his 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 demolition job on the 19-year-old, who had blitzed him on a hard court in Los Cabos in April.

“It wasn’t easy out there today. Obviously a long day, stop, starting. More than anything mentally, having to deal with cold and rain in your face. Just had to make sure I had good mentality today. That’s probably the most important thing,” de Minaur said.

“I feel like every time I come here to Paris, it’s raining. I can remember very few times where I feel like I’ve played a hot day here, and I remember plenty of these types of matches, sadly.

“But I knew what to expect. I was ready. I had my undershirt thermal layering on. I was ready for a battle in the cold and rain.”

Much more ready than his young opponent, who looked thoroughly disenchanted with the clay, the rain, de Minaur’s killer drop shots and, last but not least, an umpire who he berated wildly for one bad call.

When asked about his defeat by Michelsen in Mexico, de Minaur chose his words carefully.

“That match I’d flown from Rotterdam basically the night before from an indoor event to an outdoor event in Mexico. It was quite a quick turnaround. So I probably wasn’t quite ready to play — but I definitely was ready today,” he said.

His performance was dotted with some virtuoso shotmaking and de Minaur, who next meets tough Spanish clay-courter Jaume Munar, was most pleased with the way he handed the testing, heavy conditions by looking on the bright side of life.

“The most important thing was to have a positive mindset throughout the whole day because it’s very easy to start complaining about the weather, the conditions, everything, but if you start down that rabbit hole, you can probably guarantee you’re not going to play a good-level match,” he said.

“So you’ve got to take it lightly. You’ve got to see the bright side of it. Even though it’s a little bit fake it until you make it, right?

“I was telling myself walking into the match that ‘I love these types of conditions, you know I wish every day was like this’.

Sorry mate!

Fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis admits he’d already accepted defeat in another of his grand slam marathons, until he conjured up some late-night resolve to outlast his crestfallen pal Alexei Popyrin at the French Open.

In a five-set, delayed daytime all-Aussie epic that lasted so long the night session was already finished by the time it concluded at 11.37pm on Tuesday, weary Kokkinakis joked the nerve-shredding, roller-coaster of a first-round match had taken years off his life.

Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrates

Thanasi Kokkinakis is no stranger to five-set matches in grand slams.(Getty Images: Dan Istitene)

But after beating his hitting partner and stablemate Popyrin 4-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3 5-7 6-3 in a near four-and-a-half hour high-quality slog, he admitted how difficult it had been to beat such a good friend.

“It’s definitely not easy playing a good mate and I thought Alexei played a hell of a match as well. He made me lift my level and I just had to stay with it,” shrugged Kokkinakis.

There wasn’t much he could say to a devastated Popyrin, who admitted afterwards after being in a position to win on several occasions that it had been “one of my hardest losses to take.”

Kokkinakis understood.

“When you lose like that, I don’t think you want to hear too much at the net. I just said ‘tough one, hell of a battle’ and he said ‘good luck’. It’s hard, I’m sure we’ll talk about at some point down the track.”

This was another epic in the list of Kokkinakis grand slam sagas, which began in Paris in 2015 when he beat compatriot Bernard Tomic in five all the way through to last year when he defeated Stan Wawrinka in another French Open classic that went all the way.

Elsewhere, defending champion Novak Djokovic has shrugged off doubts about the state of his game with a confident 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 defeat of local hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

The top seed had to wait until the night match on the third day of the tournament to begin his quest for a record-extending 25th grand slam title but quickly hit his stride to dispatch the local wildcard on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Djokovic has not reached a final this year.

Australian French Open results on day three

Alex de Minaur defeated Alex Michelsen (USA) 6-1, 6-0, 6-2

Luciano Darderi (ITL) defeated Rinky Hijikata 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1

Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) defeated Adam Walton 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 

Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated Alexei Popyrin 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 5-7, 6-3

AAP

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Posted 6h ago6 hours agoTue 28 May 2024 at 9:35pm, updated 2h ago2 hours agoWed 29 May 2024 at 1:17am

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