Alex de Minaur’s plans to conquer the world have been put on hold after he crashed out of the Australian Open in a straight-sets defeat to Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
The Aussie men’s No.1 never got a serious foothold in the third-round match as 16th seed Fognini remained in control throughout his 6-4 6-3 6-4 win on Saturday night.
“It’s not the result I wanted going in,” de Minaur said.
“Fabio played at a very high level throughout the whole match and he was too good for me.
“He was not giving a lot and I felt like we were going to try and expose his movement a little bit, but he was hitting some pretty good end-range shots.
“I couldn’t be too passive on the rallies because he was stepping in and dictating from the get-go.”
In-form Italian Fabio Fognini proved too strong for Australia's Alex de Minaur tonight.
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) February 13, 2021
De Minaur, who turns 22 next week, reached the quarter-finals at last year’s US Open and snared his fourth career title last month in Turkey.
He told reporters after his second-round win over Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas that Australian tennis’ growing depth meant local players would be aiming to “conquer the world” in the coming years.
But his defeat to Fognini meant there will be no Australian men in the round of 16 at their home slam this year.
“In a way it’s good to have these matches because I can now sit down and see what I need to improve on,” de Minaur said.
“It’s a constant journey of improvement and I’m not satisfied with where I am.
“I don’t want to come and make the third round of a slam and be content about it.
“I want to be pushing deep in slams and today wasn’t the day, but I’ll have more chances and I’ll definitely learn from this.”
Fognini beat compatriot Salvatore Caruso in what he described as a “crazy” five-set epic two nights earlier but moved well to counter de Minaur’s renowned speed.
De Minaur broke Fognini’s serve to keep the match alive at 5-3 in the third set but could not repeat the feat as the 33-year-old Italian sealed the result on serve at the second time of asking.
The match was the first both men had played since fans were banned because of Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown and Fognini felt their absence played into his hands.
“It was a really tough match and tonight it was (good) for me without a crowd. He’s Australian, so for sure,” Fognini told the Nine Network.
“I played a really solid match. There was a lot of running because he’s one of the fastest guys on the circuit and he’s really solid.
“I got a bit tired at the end of the match at 5-2 (in the third set), but I think it’s normal.”
Fognini next faces a huge task when he takes on second seed Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.