By Sudipto Ganguly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An ice bath, a massage and a private jet ride from Sydney to Melbourne after winning his first ATP title has refreshed Alex de Minaur enough for him to state he is ready to lead the host nation’s hopes for the men’s title at the Australian Open.
The 19-year-old wore down Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 7-5 7-6(5) to win the Sydney International late on Saturday — his second match in five hours.
He then had to rush to Melbourne on Sunday on a private jet — “a small one” — in order to finalise his preparations for his first round clash with Portugal’s Pedro Sousa at the season opening Grand Slam on Monday.
The teenager had criticised Australian Open organisers on Saturday for the scheduling after defeating Frenchman Gilles Simon in the semi-finals, but was in a more conciliatory mood on Sunday.
“I’ve done everything to recover. Hopped in the ice bath, had a massage. I’m ready to go… the body is feeling good,” De Minaur, who is the 27th seed and highest-ranked Australian in the men’s singles, told reporters.
“It’s (the Sydney title) given me a lot of confidence. To be able to do it at my home in front of my friends and family, it’s always that much more special,” he said.
“Coming in, it’s given me a lot of confidence. Hopefully I can just ride that momentum and keep playing some great tennis here in Melbourne.”
De Minaur is one of 12 Australians in the men’s singles and seeking to become the first local to win the title since Mark Edmondson in 1976.
The last Australian man to make the men’s singles final was Lleyton Hewitt, who lost to Marat Safin in 2005, but De Minaur felt there was no added pressure on him to end the long drought.
“I think once you start thinking in different ways to deal with these situations, that’s the wrong thing to do,” he said.
“I’m just doing the same things that I was doing two years ago, three years ago. Every match, just making sure I go out there, compete, just give it my all.
“That’s pretty much all I can ask from myself.”
Barty also had to make a hurried dash to Melbourne after she lost the Sydney final to Petra Kvitova in a third-set tie-break and is also scheduled to play on Monday evening against Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum on Margaret Court Arena.
The world number 15 will also bear the burden of expectation from a home crowd who are waiting to end a similarly-long drought in the women’s draw. The last local champion was Chris O’Neil in 1978.
Last year Barty won two WTA titles, reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open and earlier this week beat world number one Simona Halep in Sydney.
“You know, I’m excited to get out there and try and play my best tennis for myself, my team and the Australian public, but there is certainly no extra pressure from them,” Barty said on Saturday.
“I think, if anything, it’s embracing the support that you do get.
“I’m a different player than I was 12 months ago. I feel like I’m a much better player. I’m a more complete player… I feel like I’m playing great tennis.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)