Alex de Minaur has hit out at the Paris fans who he believes crossed a line amid a deafening bearpit atmosphere during his dramatic French Open exit on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Australia’s No.1 was crestfallen that his tournament was derailed at the first hurdle by France’s bright new hope, Hugo Gaston, in a classic four-hour, five-setter on Tuesday.
De Minaur had to deal with boos and jeers amid a cacophony of noise from the patriotic home support, whose songs and cheers for 21-year-old Gaston helped propel the Olympic youth champion to a 4-6 6-2 6-3 0-6 7-6 (10-4) triumph.
He wasn’t complaining about the “away Davis Cup match atmosphere” which he normally thrives on, but de Minaur was left clearly upset by the behaviour of some of the raucous crowd.
“There’s a difference between a great atmosphere and supporting your fellow countryman, which is completely fine and it’s great,” the Sydneysider said.
“I’m sure for him it was an amazing atmosphere. He enjoyed every second of it, but there’s a line.
“When I’m getting told things by people in the crowd, making eye contact with me after I hit a double fault, I think there’s a certain line that needs to be looked at.”
Asked to elaborate, he said: “I’d rather not get into what was being said.”
But he was completely shattered by the loss after his best-ever clay-ourt season.
“Ideally, I will sleep tonight and forget all about it, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.
“What I have got to do now is put this behind me. Easier said than done but I will do my best.”
The exit of the 19th seed, Australia’s top hope, leaves Jason Kubler as the only man left in the second-round draw, while the country’s top two women Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville have also made it past the first round.
At 3-0 up in the final set, it looked as if de Minaur would join the last-64 crew, seemingly on his way to a magnificent comeback win from two sets to one down as a frustrated Gaston stamped on his own racquet at the changeover, snapping it in half.
But on the day when a French tennis hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was bidden an emotional au revoir by the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd, a new young idol then announced himself on Roland Garros’s second court.
Clearly cramping, the stocky leftie with a touch of finesse just went for broke, delivering an array of swashbuckling shots, delicate winners and even an underarm serve to steal a point.
Yet when the Toulouse youngster twice had the chance to serve for the match, de Minaur denied him each time.
But did the incessant din and crowd pressure eventually get to him as he coughed up crucial double faults and then played a distracted final 10-point super tiebreak?
“Hey, maybe it did; maybe it didn’t. I don’t know,” he shrugged.
“What I know is I didn’t play my best tennis when I needed in the super-buster. It’s a shame.”
His exit followed another gallant exit as John Millman’s tale of French Open woe continued with him failing for the sixth time to earn his first win in the main draw at his graveyard grand slam.
Handed another wretched first-round draw, Millman fought tigerishly but rising American Sebastian Korda just had just too much power and quality in a 6-1 7-5 7-6 (8-6) win.
Millman saved three match points and was on the verge of taking the match into a fourth set before the No.27 seed finally advanced.