Sport Alex De Minaur warms up for Australian Open by winning Antalya Open in Turkey
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Alex De Minaur warms up for Australian Open by winning Antalya Open in Turkey

Crowd favourite: Alex de Minaur. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP
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Australian tennis star Alex de Minaur has opened his 2021 season in style, winning his fourth ATP title at the Antalya Open in Turkey.

De Minaur was leading Alexander Bublik 2-0 in Wednesday’s final when the Kazakh retired injured just seven minutes into the match.

The 21-year-old world No.23 dropped only one set for the week in a promising build-up to next month’s rescheduled Australian Open in Melbourne.

De Minaur missed his home grand slam last year in shattering fashion, an abdominal strain forcing him out of the Open following an heroic ATP Cup campaign for Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic then further stalled his progression, following a breakout three-title season in 2019, placing the Davis Cup star in long-time lockdown at his base in Spain.

But the fleet-footed baseliner, now the youngest player in the world’s top 25, came back with a vengeance when the Tour resumed.

De Minaur made a career-best charge to the US Open quarter-finals, upstaging a succession of heavy hitters en route to the last eight, then reached the final in Antwerp to finish ahead of Nick Kyrgios as Australia’s season-ending No.1 for the second straight year.

Now he’s up and running once again in 2021.

Aryna Sabalenka extends her winning run. Photo: Sipa USA

Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka will arrive at the Australian Open in top form after winning her third straight WTA title and 15th straight match by beating Veronika Kudermetova 6-2 6-2 in the Abu Dhabi Open final.

The fourth-seeded Belarusian, who won indoor tournaments in Ostrava and Linz at the end of last season, last lost in the fourth round of the French Open in October.

Sabalenka will rise three places to seventh in the rankings. She is 9-4 in career finals and 6-0 in the past 16 months.

“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”

Kudermetova was playing in her first tour final.

“I think today is not my day because I was very slow,” Kudermetova said. “I had a lot of mistakes.”

The tournament in Abu Dhabi was hastily arranged by the WTA to offer players more match time after the Australian Open was rescheduled for February amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sabalenka and Kudermetova will now travel to Australia, where they will spend time in quarantine with limited practice opportunities ahead of the Australian Open and its warm-up events.

-AAP