For the second straight night in Acapulco, Alex de Minaur stormed back after losing the opening set against a red-hot opponent. On Saturday, his effort against Tommy Paul earned him the seventh and biggest title of his career at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.
The Australian claimed his first ATP 500 crown with a battling 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory, his heart and staying power again making the difference in the Acapulco humidity.
“It feels great, it feels amazing,” De Minaur said just before the trophy ceremony. “I know the hard work that’s put in to be here and it’s good to see the results. It’s not always that you win the tournament and you get to finish a week unbeaten, so I’ll definitely cherish this going into Indian Wells and Miami.”
After methodically working his way back into the match in set two, De Minaur landed what proved to be a decisive blow by saving five break points in a marathon five-deuce game to open the final set. When De Minaur fought off those chances with a combination of big serves and steely baseline play, Paul could not recover as the Aussie rattled off seven straight games.
“Just to kind of stay in the match, especially in the second set… I just dug deep, managed to scrap my way through it,” the 24-year-old said of the turnaround. “And then the first game of the third set was exactly like my semi-final against Holger [Rune]. So I had that in the back of my mind, I just told myself to keep pushing. If I could keep pushing myself and get out of that game, the momentum was going to switch. I’m very happy I was able to get out of that.”
Both De Minaur and Paul played physical, three-set semi-finals that ended less than 24 hours before the final, with De Minaur’s comeback win against Holger Rune finishing near 3 a.m. But those previous exertions were not apparent in a high-quality match Saturday night — until Paul showed signs of wear late in the two-hour, 27-minute contest, with De Minaur adding to his torment with a slew of drop shots.
Paul started brightly after his three-hour, 25-minute win against World No. 5 Taylor Fritz, keeping tight to the baseline and pulling De Minaur around the court to secure an early break. But the match began to turn when the Aussie escaped a 0/30 hole to go up 3-2 in the second.
As De Minaur began to take the intiaitive in the rallies, he secured his first break on his sixth break point of the match in the following game — only for Paul to snap back and level at 4-4. Still, the tenor of the match had changed, and De Minaur made it count with another break in the set’s final game.
While the Aussie dominated the final set, Paul battled until the end, saving two match points and getting on the board with a hold at 0-5. But there would be no stopping De Minaur from becoming the second Australian champion in Acapulco, after Nick Kyrgios’ 2019 triumph.
De Minaur moved up four places to No. 18 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings this week, leaving him three spots off his career high of No. 15.
“Like everything in my career, it’s been step by step,” he said of his return to the Top 20. “I just want to keep pushing, keep getting the most out of myself. I know I might not play unbelievable tennis every day but I know I’m going to fight to the end.
“I’ve got a whole lot of heart in this little body of mine and I enjoy competing, so I’m very happy with it.”
Paul, just over a month since his run to the Australian Open semi-finals, is also set to return to the Top 20. He moved up four places to No. 19 this week in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The 25-year-old was seeking his second tour-level title (Stockholm 2021) in his second final.