2021 Viking International

De Minaur scores success over Sonego to clinch crown

2021 Viking International Men's Champion Alex De Minaur

Australian no.1 patiently sees off passionate Italian in tiebreak thriller

Alex De Minaur fought back from dropping the opening set to capture the Eastbourne title with a controlled 4–6 6–4 7–6(5) tense triumph over gallant Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

The three-set thriller kicked off at a languid pace, with Sonego exceptionally slow on his service games. They broke each other’s serve early on and Sonego missed a break point in the eighth game.

But he made amends in the 10th game to seal the opening set, the first set that De Minaur had dropped all week.

With two such aggressive players, both seeded at Devonshire Park and at next week’s Wimbledon Championships, slugging it out in a battle of attrition it was De Minaur who started to force his opponent into uncharacteristic unforced errors.

The Australian no.1 turned the screw just enough to edge the second set, but the pair were involved in a delightful pressure-packed final set with neither player giving an inch on their service game — which even included a taut tiebreak on a knife-edge.

Sonego had already accounted for Australian Max Purcell, a Doubles expert who enjoyed a dream week as a lucky loser to reach the semi-finals, and looked likely to dismiss De Minaur too.

De Minaur arrived at the south coast resort with momentum on his side, having reaching the quarter-final in Stuttgart, Germany and the semi-final stage at Queen’s Club in London. He used to employ ultra-defensive tactics, but this season has altered his tactics to a simplistic but aggressive gameplan that has worked wonders.

Serving to stay in the tournament, De Minaur held his nerve at deuce to level matters at 5–5. Sonego’s response was a rapid service game to love.

The pair exchanged service games to force the lottery of a tiebreak to decide the Eastbourne title. De Minaur took the first break to lead 3–1, but lost his way to serve for the title at 5–4 to share a point apiece. Sonego, serving to remain in the tournament, conceded defeat as the sparse Centre Court rose to their feet to applaud a classic encounter.

De Minaur, the big-serving no.2 seed lacks the raw power to hit through the court so served deep and kept returning to the backhand before whipping it cross court, so could experience problems at Wimbledon as no.15 seed. His newly-found ruthless earned him the Antalya Open in January and just about edged the Eastbourne crown.

Whereas Sonego’s precise serve and heavy forehand, who before the final only dropped one set, will fancy a run at SW19 as no.23 seed. Having won a title on Italian clay in Cagliari this year, his only chink in his armour seems to be an inability to hit passing shots when the opponent is at the net.

De Minaur said, “It’s given me exactly what I wanted to do this week — play some great tennis and get ready for Wimby. But though I’ve had an unbelievable week here, I have to switch the mindset real quick to Wimby.

“It’s a lot of relief, a lot of excitement. It’s been a long week, I’ve played some great tennis and managed to pull through with a very tough win today.

“Hopefully, I can keep it going through Wimbledon – I can’t wait.”

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