Following a very close battle between Casper Ruud and Miomir Kecmanovic with the Serb coming through in straight sets it was time for Australia v Spain.
Alex de Minaur who was runner-up here last year to Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top seed up against last minute inclusion Alejandro Davidovich Fokina from Spain who has made most of his noise on the challenger circuit and qualified following Shapovalov’s withdrawal.
The Spaniard however knows how to cause an upset defeating Gael Monfils in Estoril earlier this year. De Minaur has gone from strength to strength and will finish the year inside the top 20 coming to Milan with three ATP 250 titles and a runners-up medal at the ATP 500 event in Basel.
De Minaur won the toss and elected to receive and it was interesting to see how Foki would approach this.
His bread and butter shot is his forehand and he did well holding his opening game forcing the issue going for that inside out forehand down the line serving him well.
Opening four games of the match were good viewing. We saw Alejandro a bit loose on serve as he was broken but then created chances of his own with his sharp backhand cross court working the ball well but Alex stayed ahead at 3-1.
A good hold from the Spaniard couldn’t stop Alex taking a 4-2 lead in 22 minutes and 22 seconds.
The Spaniard did re-group quite nicely in the second set, I felt he was the more aggressive of the two players and took time away from De Minaur.
Serving first added pressure but he got through his service games unscathed as they would decide two by a tie-break.
It continued to be the underdog playing with greater intensity and at the first change over in the tie-break led the top seed 4-2.
On his own serve at 6-5 the Spaniard won a deserved set to level the match at a set a piece.
A surprise start to the third set as the Spaniard broke serve and took an immediate lead. A part of Alex’ game which is usually strong is his ability in long rallies but of the 9 rallies over 9 shots in the match he hadn’t won a single one…
After 30 minutes of dominating tennis from the Spaniard he the threw out his worst service game since the opening 15 minutes and was broken back immediately.
Suddenly from a position of control Alejandro found himself in a position of threat as he fell 1-3 down and De Minaur would serve for set three. 0-1 to 4-1. De Minaur a set away from the win.
The ‘demon’ wasn’t going to stop there and there was no looking back from the top seed who powered to a four set win.
Despite a lack of experience at this level I was super impressed with Alejandro during the match but he will be disappointed how he dropped off at the start of the third and ended up losing 8 of the last 9 games.