Alex de Minaur’s Eastbourne title defence remains on track but only barely after a gutsy three-set quarter-final victory.
Wimbledon will have to wait for Alex de Minaur, whose Eastbourne title defence has reached the semi-finals.
Australia’s top-ranked player is set to be the No.18 seed at next week’s grasscourt grand slam but he is firmly focused on first winning his sixth career ATP Tour singles title.
de Minaur dropped his first set of the week to Tommy Paul and had to fight back from 1-4 down in the final set to score a gutsy 6-2 4-6 6-4 victory in a rollercoaster contest lasting two hours and 18 minutes.
“(It was) stressful, that’s for sure, but I’m incredibly happy, because I think this was a very high-level match from both of us and it could have gone either way,” he said.
“I’m just happy I was able to turn it around. It’s a big win mentally for me, which I really needed, so I’m very happy with that … I live to fight another day.”
Another American, Taylor Fritz, is waiting for the Sydneysider after he eased past Nick Kyrgios’ sometime doubles partner Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-2.
Maxime Cressy, also of the United States, will face Great Britain’s Jack Draper in the other semi-final.
Fritz won his last two meetings with de Minaur but still trails 3-2 overall in their head-to-head matches.
“It should be a fun one. We played earlier in the year and he got me, 7-6 in the third, so I’m ready for a battle,” de Minaur said.
“Hopefully, we get another beautiful day like today and we can go out there and enjoy our time on the grass.”
With British tennis-playing girlfriend Katie Boulter watching from the stands, de Minaur had to dig deep against Paul, who eliminated second seed Jannik Sinner, of Italy, in his previous match.
The world No.24 sealed a breezy one-set lead in half an hour when he chased down a Paul volley in trademark fashion and brilliantly whipped a forehand past him at the net for a winner.
But de Minaur dropped serve a second time to send the match to a deciding set, where both players had a series of early chances to take the lead.
Paul was the first to take advantage in the fourth game, then held for 4-1, before de Minaur’s resistance kicked in.
The Australian managed to get back on level terms then played an exquisite point at four-all to break Paul again and give him his first chance to serve for a semi-final spot.
There was another twist to come, with de Minaur falling into a 0-40 hole, only to rally again and win on his second match point.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played the first three points of a game any worse, so it can only get better from there,” he said.
“I just tried to take it one point at a time. I was able to get a free point first-up, then I played two really good points from from the baseline. I was stoked with my mental performance today.”
de Minaur has never progressed beyond round 3 at Wimbledon but is sure to arrive at the All England Club next week feeling confident and in strong form.