He may have looked like a kid up well past his bedtime, but there’s no denying Alex De Minaur proved he belonged with the big boys on Saturday.

A star-making turn at a time when tennis is desperate for them, the 19-year-old Aussie looked every the bit the part in his epic tussle with seventh seed and 2014 champion Marin Cilic, which the Croat won 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in a match that finished at 2:20am, the second-latest in US Open history.

Even under the ignominy of failing to hold a two-sets-to-love lead, there’s no denying De Minaur deserves plenty of credit. From start-to-finish, he gave Cilic fits with a combination of electrifying speed, walloped forehands and weighty body serves – all that and, of course, the trademark tenacity of his mentor and coach, Lleyton Hewitt. A crowd-pleasing player, let’s hope he can continue to do it for years to come.

Here’s your three to see on day 7 in NYC:

Ashleigh Barty (AUS) [18] v Karolina Pliskova (CZE) [8] – Second on Louis Armstrong

This time last year, Karolina Pliskova was the enigma of the WTA tour. Was she a legit number one, or just a pretender? A year on and we still don’t have an answer, but it seems like most have given up waiting for one. Maybe that changes this week, and in Ash Barty – who has edged her in two of their three career meetings – Pliskova has been given an opportunity to make a real statement of intent. Of course, that’s easier said-than-done, especially against the always-crafty Barty (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme, I promise), who won’t give her much to work with, especially on the backhand side, and that means Pliskova will have to be equal parts patient and ruthless, which is a particularly tough tightrope for the Czech to walk. In any case, the winner of this one most likely gets Serena Williams next, and they’ll have to really impress here to have a chance of winning that one.

Elise Mertens (BEL) [15] v Sloane Stephens (USA) [3] – First Match, Night Session on Arthur Ashe (7:00pm start)

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but when it comes to tennis, the quicker you avenge a loss, the better, and that’s certainly the case here for Sloane Stephens against her vanquisher in Cincinnati, Elise Mertens. Enjoying a career year in 2018, the 22-year-old Mertens has won three titles and reached the Aussie Open semifinals, while the win against Stephens marked the highest-ranked opponent she’s ever beaten. A very awkward player to play against, Stephens had a tough time in Cincy dealing with Mertens’ refusal to give her any real pace or angles to counterpunch, even to the point of throwing up moonballs just to completely kill the tempo. If Stephens is to turn the tables here, she’ll have to be much more disciplined, and not let the Belgian frustrate her into avoidable mistakes – certainly doable, but not a given, and that’s what makes this a particularly dangerous “trap game” for the reigning champion.

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [3] v Borna Coric (CRO) [20] – Second Match, Night Session on Arthur Ashe

Making his first appearance in the second week of a major here in Flushing, a year of marked improvement continues for 22-year-old Borna Coric, but it’s about to get an awful lot harder against the Tower of Tandil, Juan Martin Del Potro. Their first career meeting, this matchup represents an interesting contrast in how to play baseline power tennis, as while Del Potro likes to get on the front foot and hit through the court, Coric is content to cede baseline position and break his opponents down over the course of the rally. In either case, that means this is guaranteed to be an absolute slugfest, and while Del Potro is rightfully the favourite, don’t be surprised if the young Croat outlasts him.


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