De Minaur, aged 19, is one of the game’s most exciting prospects, but the youthful Australian found himself consistently outpowered as 23-year-old Edmund secured his place in the second round with a performance full of calm assurance. The Briton won 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in just an hour and 56 minutes and will now take on Hungary’s Marton Fuscsovics, who beat Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-3, 7-6.
In past years Edmund had been the young gun trying to shoot down an established opponent, but the world No 17 has made huge progress in the last five months. He reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, beat Novak Djokovic and David Goffin en route to the quarter-finals in Madrid and broke into the world’s top 20 for the first time earlier this month.
Clay has often brought the best out of Edmund, who has always won at least one match in this tournament. His best performance saw him reach the third round last year before losing to Kevin Anderson.
De Minaur was born in Sydney and is supported by Tennis Australia, but has a Uruguayan father and a Spanish mother. He lives with his family in Alicante.
He is one of six teenagers in the men’s draw and the third youngest after Denis Shapovalov and Corentin Moutet. A former world junior No 2, he climbed nearly 150 places in the senior world rankings last year, began 2018 by becoming the youngest player to reach the final of the Sydney International since 2000 and currently sits at a career-high position at No 105 in the world.
However, the Australian is still finding his way on clay. Although he reached the final of a clay-court Challenger in Spain earlier this year, he has only ever won one tour-level match on [start italic] terre battue [end italic]. On his only previous appearance here 12 months ago he lost in the first round to Robin Haase.
Although the sun broke through by the end, the conditions at the start were very different to the first two days. It had rained in the morning and when the match started just after 2.30pm there was still damp in the chilly air.
Dressed from head to toe in bright blue and with a black-and-white hoop across his chest, Edmund might have been mistaken for a Sampdoria footballer. Any comparison with Everton blue might not have gone down well with the Briton, who is a Liverpool supporter.
Edmund’s ball-striking was excellent from the start. He hit 28 winners to De Minaur’s 15, but what impressed most was his cool head. Whenever he got into any sort of difficulty Edmund was a model of calm. De Minaur, in contrast, did not play the big points well under pressure from Edmund’s bold hitting.
The Briton found his stride immediately. A backhand winner down the line gave Edmund the first point and De Minaur’s missed forehand gave his opponent a break in the opening game.
The only time that Edmund’s serve came under threat in the opening set was in the fourth game, when De Minaur went to break point with a bold foray forward, but his opponent served his way out of trouble.
Edmund broke again in the fifth game, failed to convert a set point in the seventh but served out to love in the eighth. He had barely put a foot wrong in the opening set but had the crowd slow-hand-clapping after he took a lengthy toilet break before the start of the second.
De Minaur was unable to take three more break points early in the second set and at 2-2 he dropped serve again. His frustration was evident as he smashed a ball away in anger, which earned him a code violation.
To his credit, however, De Minaur stuck to his task. On his sixth break point of the match at 3-4 the Australian finally broke when his cross-court backhand clipped the top of the net and flew beyond Edmund’s reach.
Edmund’s reaction, nevertheless, could not be faulted as he immediately broke back to 15 and then served out for the set, even if he wasted his first opportunity with his seventh double fault of the match.
The pressure on De Minaur’s serve continued at the start of the third set. Edmund broke in the opening game and never looked in danger thereafter. When De Minaur served at 3-5 he was broken for the sixth time in the match when he hit a backhand long on match point.
“I played well,” Edmund said afterwards. “I think I played with intent. I was very pleased with how I managed my game. I gave too many cheap points away on my serve in the second set with double faults. I'm not surprised I got broken, I deserved it. In the third set I got it back and in the end I got the balance well.
“It's a long preparation for here. You always want to keep going and fine-tune stuff, but when the day comes you have got to get out there and do your stuff. Throughout the match generally my concentration was very good. That's something you've got to learn. It doesn't come overnight. I respect Alex a lot. He's the type of guy that will pounce on it if you do dip.”
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