Alex de Minaur might not be your typical big-serving grass-court player who rushes the net at every opportunity. But the Aussie is one of the toughest competitors on the ATP Tour, and he will look to make his mark on the lawns this grass-court season.
ATPTour.com caught up with the 22-year-old, who is competing at this week’s cinch Championships, about his love for diving on grass, the player he wishes he could play on the surface and why lollies would be key for him on the Wimbledon queue.
What is the biggest adjustment physically when switching to grass?
I think the biggest adjustment is you naturally have got to be a little bit lower to the ground because of the lower bounce, so you can’t quite slide. Even though there are some people who manage to slide on the grass, you can’t really slide. It [requires] a bit more compact footwork, so you’ve got to be nice and low and be ready to feel the quad burn.
Do you feel a different type of soreness when you first jump on the grass from the clay?
One hundred per cent. The first day after grass is always a tough one. You feel like your quads and your glutes are burning, but it’s a good feeling. The grass season is around the corner and you’re ready to go.
Do you have any allergies when you’re on the grass?
No, I’m actually lucky. I wish there were more grass tournaments. I have no problems at all with the grass. In fact, I love it, so no problems here.
First thing that comes to mind when it comes to grass-court tennis?
Classic, heritage. There’s a lot of history. It’s where it all started and it’s lots of fun. It’s probably the only surface you see people diving around the court and you see a different type of tennis. It’s actually very fun and very enjoyable.
Your favourite thing about playing on grass?
The fact you can have a dive out there and you won’t actually die from falling on the surface, even though there are some players who manage to dive on the hard or on the clay. At least I feel comfortable [doing it] on the grass. You can have a couple dive volleys here and there and not harm yourself, so that’s always fun.
Any hesitation to put your body on the line on the grass?
No, on the grass there’s no hesitation. There are no bad feelings when it comes to diving. The body handles it quite well.
The worst thing about grass-court tennis?
The weather. The moment we get a couple of raindrops, the grass courts are over. If we manage to get good weather, no rain, it’s beautiful. But the moment we get a little bit of rain, it takes a while to dry off.
Most memorable Wimbledon match as a fan?
You don’t have to go back too far. The last Wimbledon final between Roger [Federer] and Novak [Djokovic]. That was an incredible match. I honestly wasn’t watching because I was doing fitness at the time, but I had thought that Roger had won that match and actually put a tweet out saying congratulations to him to then realise that the match had still been going. Novak ended up winning that, so that was pretty memorable for sure. Watching the live scores whilst doing my fitness, it was a rookie error.
You get the Royal Box+1, who would you bring?
I would bring my mom. She’s one of the biggest fans out there and just loves Wimbledon, everything about it, so I think she would really enjoy that experience for sure.
For playing on grass, do you prefer all-white clothing or something with colour?
I’m all for [the all-white clothing]. It’s great to have such culture and history and prestige around a tournament [Wimbledon]. I think it makes it special, as I’m sure all the players around the world would say, and it’s definitely a different feeling once you’re stepping into the All England Club.
Serve and volley or chip and charge?
I’m going to go with chip and charge, which I might turn into a normal return and charge. If I could just chip and charge like Roger I would definitely do it, but I think I’ll stick to the two-handed return.
Fresh-cut grass or worn-down grass?
I love stepping on a court when it’s just fresh-cut grass. I think it’s beautiful to be on the court, but I think I enjoy playing more when it’s a bit worn out and a bit quicker.
If you could play any player from any generation on grass, who would it be and why?
I reckon I would love to play Tony Roche. He is one of our Davis Cup coaches that I’ve been around a lot and [it is nice] just to imagine what his game would be on the grass. His slice, his serve-volley, it would be a pretty surreal experience to experience that and see what I would be able to do against it, see if I could get some of his slices back or not.
Build the perfect grass-court player – forehand, backhand, serve, volley and slice.
Serve, Nick Kyrgios. He’s got one of the best serves out there. It’s just the fact that he can hit every serve and just the variety he has makes his serve the one I want to have. Forehand, Juan Martin Del Potro, [who hits a] very flat shot on the grass, it skids through, it’s very effective. Backhand I’m going to go with Novak Djokovic, I’m sure that’s a very popular answer. Volleys I’m going to go with Roger Federer. For the slice, Dan Evans. He’s got a biting slice, he uses it a lot. He’s very much a grass-court player, a very classical player. I’ve played against that slice and it’s definitely one of the better ones out there.
Three things you would bring while waiting in the Wimbledon Queue overnight.
A tent, I think I’ll start with that. I might have to bring a sleeping bag, I’m all about the sleeping at this stage. And then I would have to bring some sort of food. I would say any type of lollies, just three or four packs of lollies just to spend the night and make sure I’ve got my food. Sleeping and eating, those are the most important things. Tent, sleeping bag, lollies. All you need.