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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Speed Demon Alex de Minaur understands tennis is all about timing.

De Minaur crashed the family Christmas party as The Grinch last month.

More: Richard Evans on HOF, GOAT and Top Rivalries

The Demon delivered a massive tennis party in Perth.

Exhorted by home fans, de Minaur shocked Grand Slam king Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 sparking Australia’s United Cup sweep of Serbia—and inciting roars of revelry from Aussie fans.

World No. 12 de Minaur called his first win over a world No. 1 the biggest victory of his career.

De Minaur silenced his skeptics—at least for one day—who have branded him a lightweight version of his tennis hero, Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt, a quick counter puncher who lacks the big blows to take down true champions and become a Top 10 mainstay.

“It's something I've heard my whole career. I'm not big enough, I'm not strong enough, I'm a pusher, don't have the firepower,” de Minaur said. “Never going to be a top player. But, you know, I hear this week in, week out.

“The only thing that does is give me more fire and adds more gasoline to this engine that's ready to do everything in its power to prove people wrong. Hey, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I know that I'm going to get the absolute most out of myself.”

How do you follow a professional peak?

How about a deep run at the Happy Slam and a major step toward happily ever after?

Asked by the Australian media if he’s considering proposing to long-time girlfriend, WTA pro and fellow Grinch aficionado Katie Boulter, de Minaur replied with a smile “it’s not in the cards just yet. Not ruling it out.”

Here’s de Minaur’s exchange with the media in Perth after his win.

Question: Great win tonight. You mentioned the AO. Rusty [Lleyton Hewitt] is your idol on the court. But what about off the court? In 2005 he proposed to his then-girlfriend Bec [Cartwright]. Will we get a proposal to Katie [Boulter] after the AO?

ALEX de MINAUR: (Laughter.) Jeez. Putting me on the spot here. Yeah, it's not on the cards just yet. Not ruling it out. But yeah, for the time being, I'm going to try and focus on playing tennis and then we'll think about the off-court activities.”

Of course, Australian fans are all in on de Minaur pumping up the party at the Happy Slam, which starts on January 17th.

You’d be chomping at the cork in the champagne bottle too mired in more than half-century dry spell.

It’s been 58 years since the unheralded world No. 212 Mark Edmondson pulled off the tennis version of a Rocky Balboa uprising—twice ina row. Edmondson toppled top-seeded Ken Rosewall in the 1976 Australian Open semifinals, then beat heavily-favored John Newcombe to take the title.

While Aussie heroes ranging from Pat Cash to Lleyton Hewitt have made final runs at the AO and Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis captured the AO doubles title, no Aussie man has cracked the singles code down under since Edmondson’s ultimate underdog run.

Last summer, a fierce de Minaur dissected Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-3 roaring into his maiden Masters 1000 final in Toronto where he fell to Jannik Sinner.

It was the fourth final of the 2023 season for the unseeded de Minaur, who defeated Tommy Paul to win Acapulco in February, fell to World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in the Queen's Club final on grass in June then bowed to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Los Cabos final in August.

Before cracking the champagne, consider Djokovic qualified the defeat afterward saying his wrist injury hampered both serve and forehand.

Last January, Djokovic crafted comeback coronation scoring his record-extending 28th consecutive AO triumph and 41st straight victory on Australian soil when he dismissed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final for his 10th Australian Open title.

Djokovic’s loss to de Minaur was his first defeat down under since Hyeon Chung swept him in the 2018 AO round of 16, but he didn’t sound like he was sweating it too much with his eyes on Melbourne and a record-extending 25th Grand Slam title.

“I knew that probably not going to be at my 100% physically, emotionally, mentally game-wise in the opening week of a season,” Djokovic said. “Neither did I expect that. Neither did I want that, to be honest.

“It's all a part of the buildup for Australian Open, you know. So that's where I want to perform at my best. So again, it's never nice to lose a match, of course, but, you know, it's not really going to stay with me much.”

While de Minaur is aiming to make major noise in Melbourne, he’s realistic too, knowing a best-of-three set win over a hampered Djokovic is a world away from stringing seven best-of-five set wins required to dethrone defending champion Djokovic at the AO.

“I mean, let's not get too ahead of ourselves,” de Minaur said of a potential run to the Australian Open final. “Look, the level is there.

“Five sets is a different beast. But I'm happy with where my level is, where I am mentally, and the mindset I've got going in. And I definitely know that I've got a very high top level and I would love to bring it for Melbourne.”

Pressed on the engagement question, de Minaur suggests he’d consider dropping to one knee in celebration if he rises up to a historic Australian Open title later this month.

“Wouldn't be a bad way to celebrate it, let's just say that,” de Minaur said when asked about possible engagement plans.

Boulter and de Minaur, who will celebrate their four-year anniversary together in March, serve as a mutual support system helping one another navigate the highs and lows of life on the pro circuit.

The two players often turn to fans cheering for each other in respective support boxes. Boulter says her partner is her inspiration.

"Hey, he's someone that I idolize and I try and emulate," Boulter said of deMinaur at the US Open last summer. "What he did over the course of this period of time has been pretty inspirational for me, and I don't say that lightly.

"He's really pushed the boundaries, and making his first Masters final was a massive moment for him and I don't doubt you'll see a lot more from him."

Their shared positive connection has made them one of pro tennis’ most popular couples.

"Oh, yeah, she's amazing," de Minaur said of Boulter last summer. "Yeah, I guess it's the beauty of us being both in the same sport. We kind of understand each other. "We know what to expect, how we can help each other in certain situations."

Maybe the couple who celebrated Christmas as guest Grinches will bring pure joy to the Happy Slam.

Photo credit: Katie Boulter Instagram