De Minaur's Mum: His 'Fighting Spirit Is A Gift'
“I’m looking forward to seeing you in Australia; I know you’re going to do something special for Australian tennis fans.”
It must be an unbelievable feeling for a mother to have tennis legend Rod Laver heap praise on her son. In this case, the proud mother is Esther Roman; the son, Alex de Minaur. At 19 years old, De Minaur made significant strides in 2018, and his mother is proud of his progress.
“Laver is a person who has always been admired at home," Roman told ATPTour.com from Brisbane, where De Minaur was competing in his first tournament of 2019. “Alex knew [Laver’s] name, even before he was able to speak. Receiving compliments from him is an incredible honour, as is my son’s connection with him.”
At 6'0" (1.83 m) and 152 pounds (69 kg), De Minaur — one of just two teenagers in the Top 100 of the 2018 year-end ATP Rankings — has always been a shrewd player and wise beyond his years, Roman said. His approach is simple: the right-handed Australian runs down every shot, makes his opponent work for every point and claws his way back from situations in which others might fold. His fighting spirit is matched only by his growth as a player on the court.
“That ability to dig deep down and gut it out is something he’s always had,” Roman said. “[Ever] since he started competing at seven years old, a very early age, he was always shorter, smaller and less strong than his opponents. His go-to move was to fight harder than everyone else.
“He’s always had a knack for tracking down every shot his opponent sends his way. It was never easy to land a winner against him. It isn’t something he inherited from us [his parents] or even something his brother or sisters possess. That fighting spirit is a gift.”
De Minaur soared to impressive heights in 2018. The #NextGenATP standout started the season ranked No. 208 in the ATP Rankings and closed the year at No. 31. During that time, the Aussie made the finals at Sydney, Washington and the Next Gen ATP Finals. He finished the season as Australia’s top-ranked player, ahead of Nick Kyrgios (No. 35), John Millman (No. 38) and Matthew Ebden (No. 46). Those accomplishments meant De Minaur did more than break through in 2018; he developed into his nation’s top talent.
Watch: At Home In Sydney With De Minaur
Despite the success and attention that has come with his success, De Minaur isn’t getting ahead of himself, nor is he letting his newfound fame get to his head, Roman said.
“Nothing has changed. Alex is the same person he was before he made his breakthrough,” she said. “Of course, he’s experiencing things now that he wasn’t accustomed to before. For example, we’re sitting there in a cafeteria in Almansa [municipality/township in Spain], waiting for Alex’s number to be called as he’s waiting to get his driver’s license, and a fan approached Alex, asking for a photo. That’s new to us.
“Another example: he gets a lot more Instagram and Facebook friend requests these days. Most requests are from fans, not relatives, which is something we weren’t used to before his rise. Apart from things like that, nothing has changed. Alex still travels from tournament to tournament, spending a lot of time on the road and not much at home. Of course, he’s playing on the ATP Tour, against the highest level of talent, but he’s the same kid with the same goal: to win the next match and to give it his all in the process.”
Watch: De Minaur's Road To The 2019 Season
Rising through the ranks as Australia’s top talent at the pace he has managed comes with high expectations. The country has a rich tradition of tennis champions, and De Minaur is eager to meet those standards.
“When he became Australia’s No. 1 player, Alex placed the expectations of an entire country on his shoulders,” Roman said. “Luckily, Alex handles pressure well and carries that burden proudly. He doesn’t let nerves get to him.”
One way De Minaur and his family handle the pressure is by prioritising issues and by focusing on other matters while off the court.
“When he’s training, Alex talks tennis nonstop,” Roman said. “When he’s with us [his family], we try to talk as little about tennis as possible, and he appreciates that. He’s very mature and knows what he wants for himself and of his future. We try to take everything in stride, one step at a time and learn from the losses, while gaining from the wins. We’re blessed to have a son as focused as Alex.”
Watch: Hewitt & De Minaur, A Perfect Combination
Another pillar in De Minaur’s corner is fellow Australian and two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion Lleyton Hewitt. Roman believes the former World No. 1’s role as mentor has played a crucial part in her son’s development.
“Obviously, having Lleyton by his side is beneficial,” Roman said. “He has a wealth of knowledge and has seen it all. He’s been to the top and knows what it takes to get there. He’s been an incredible addition to my son’s team, and with Adolfo Gutierrez as coach and Lleyton giving them a hand in an advisory role, it’s a formidable team.”
The stage is set for De Minaur to achieve even loftier goals in 2019. After proving he has what it takes to compete at the highest level, the teenager now faces new hurdles: to live up to the standards he set the previous year, and to meet the expectations of Australian fans in the new year.