Alex de Minaur sets up potential fourth-round clash with Novak Djokovic at Australian Open

Local hope Alex de Minaur may face the daunting task of playing nine-time champion Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open fourth round, having booked his berth in the last 16 with a straight-sets win.

In front of a partisan crowd on Rod Laver Arena, de Minaur advanced to the second week of the season-opening major via a 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-1 win over unseeded Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi in two hours and eight minutes.

While Bonzi proved no match for de Minaur on Saturday, Djokovic will be a step up in class should the Serb defeat former world number three Grigor Dimitrov in their clash in the evening session.

It is the second consecutive year de Minaur has reached the fourth round.

The 22nd seed could be joined by fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin, who will play American Ben Shelton, also on Saturday evening.

De Minaur, whose racquet bag features the message “don’t worry!!!”, said he relished playing in front of a home crowd.

“Every time I get out here I have to pinch myself,” de Minaur said in his on-court interview.

“I just enjoy what I do every day and I’m just happy.”

De Minaur, who was Australia’s highest-ranked player in the men’s draw following Nick Kyrgios’s withdrawal, sprinted from the gates in the opening game of the first set when he broke Bonzi’s serve.

His groundstrokes were on song, illustrated by a superbly placed forehand return that clinched the break.

His opening service game was strong, forcing Bonzi to largely play defense from the baseline as he held for a 2-0 lead.

De Minaur’s serve let him down in the fourth game, however, with back-to-back double faults leaving the 23-year-old playing catch-up. He was to trail 0-40 but saved two break points before Bonzi converted on the third to level the set at 2-2.

An Australian male prepares to serve at the Australian Open.
De Minaur had a mixed day with his serve.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

One of de Minaur’s many admirable on-court qualities is his ‘scramble’, the ability to chase down balls with his impressive speed. This was on display throughout the first set, especially when Bonzi was serving.

It would have come as no surprise to Bonzi, who lost to de Minaur twice last year, and he was also reminded that his opponent can quickly turn defense into attack from the baseline, as highlighted in the seventh game.

On Bonzi’s serve at 0-15, de Minaur worked the Frenchman into a position during the point that left the court open, allowing him to fire off a forehand winner on his way to securing another break for a 4-3 lead.

De Minaur had two set points at 5-3, both saved by Bonzi, but he got the yips in the following game when he was broken to love.

With the set back on serve, both players held in their next service games to force a tie-breaker, which de Minaur dominated and closed out with an ace.

A French male tennis player wipes his face at the Australian Open.
Benjamin Bonzi had a tough afternoon against the energetic de Minaur.(AAP: Luke Coch)

It was a mixed bag in terms of de Minaur’s serve early in the second set, as he was broken in the third game after grabbing an early break himself.

But he led 3-1 after snaring a second break, which he consolidated in the following game.

De Minaur continued to add to his highlight reel as the match wore on, with a breathtaking forehand on the run in the fifth game and a crosscourt backhand in the eighth drawing a round of applause from the crowd.

The backhand winner gave de Minaur two set points at 5-2 on Bonzi’s serve. He could not convert on either, but he made no mistake with a third to move further ahead on the scoreboard.

The third set was a mere formality, with de Minaur grabbing a double break on his way to recording a resounding victory.

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