Alex de Minaur may still rue his devastating ATP Cup loss to Rafael Nadal at the start of the year but Wally Masur believes the young Australian can use it as a blueprint for his attack on Dominic Thiem.
De Minaur will face the No.2 seed and new US Open favourite on Thursday morning for a spot in his first grand slam semi-final.
Masur has been waiting for the 21-year-old to make his run at a hardcourt grand slam and that's because the talented Australian showed he could match it with the best player in the world in Sydney at the start of the year.
De Minaur dominated Nadal for the best part of two sets at Ken Rosewall Arena, only for the Spanish champion to eventually claim a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win.
While de Minaur later told the Herald and The Age of his soul searching in the months after the loss, Masur looks at the match as a indication of how to approach a player like Thiem.
"You can say he fell a bit short but he just fell a bit short physically," Masur said of the Nadal loss. "He was 15 minutes away from closing it out. It was amazing, the way he played.
"What was interesting about that was the way that he played. It was up tempo, it was inside the court. Took the ball on the rise.
"We know Rafa plays deep and that he likes time to produce his shots and work his way into a rally. That style of play is pretty much what he will have to do against Thiem.
"He also plays deep in the court and likes to produce these ground shots with time and he likes to engage in that real arm-wrestle and overpower his opponent. That’s the encouraging thing.
"We know Alex has got the attitude but we know, too, that he has the game in terms of the tactical nous. And the skill set to play an all court game a really up tempo, take the ball on the rise style of game."
Thiem is 2-0 head-to-head against de Minaur but they have not squared off since a 2018 Davis Cup clash, when the Austrian beat the Australian in four sets on clay – his preferred surface.
Masur was courtside that day and believes the Australian was much closer to taking the match to a deciding set than even he realised.
"They've both improved since then but I was actually at that match in Graz and in typical Alex fashion, he got a bit outplayed early in the match but was working his way back and I don’t think he realises just how close he was to that fifth set and what might have transpired after that," Masur said.
"Thiem was playing some pretty good tennis but Alex was hanging and hanging and hanging, as he does. He wasn’t too far away."
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