De Minaur leads four Aussie men into Paris second round
Alex de Minaur has ensured there'll be at least four Australian men in the second round of the French Open - the first time that's happened for 23 years.
Alex de Minaur has saluted the growing strength-in-depth of Australian men's tennis on the day he ensured there will be a quartet in the second round for the first time in 23 years.
Despite the disappointment of in-form Chris O'Connell and Alexei Popyrin both being beaten on Monday, de Minaur made it a hat-trick of Aussie men into the last-64 as he overcame a brief absent-minded spell to outclass Belarusian Ilya Ivashka. With Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jason Kubler already into the second round, men's No.1 de Minaur regrouped after a second-set blip to win 6-1 5-7 6-1 6-3 on a sun-blessed day two.
And with either Jordan Thompson or Max Purcell to progress after their duel on Tuesday, Australian tennis will be able to celebrate four first-round winning men, along with Storm Hunter in the women's draw.
The last time at least four Aussie men made the Paris second round was 2000 when the formidable trio of Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter and Mark Philippoussis were joined by Andrew Ilie and Jason Stoltenberg.
It left de Minaur delighted despite the dampeners when, first, O'Connell became their first man to depart, going down 6-0 6-2 6-4 to Japan's Taro Daniel while battling a side strain.
Alexei Popyrin, presented with the one qualifier everybody wanted to avoid in the draw, also got beaten 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-2 by the resurgent Aslan Karatsev.
"I just think they're great tennis players," said de Minaur, saluting his compatriots.
"We've got a lot of guys that can be competitive week in, week out and as soon as they get in this kind of situation every week, they'll realise they belong here."
De Minaur was left raving about former world junior No.1 Jason Kubler - "I don't think he knows how good he plays this sport, right?" - with the Brisbane battler learning on Monday that veteran Italian swashbuckler Fabio Fognini will be his next opponent after he shocked 10th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
De Minaur also praised Kokkinakis - "An all-court game for every surface, extremely dangerous" - as the Adelaide man learned he'll be playing former champ Stan Wawrinka, after the Swiss veteran beat Albert Ramos Vinolas 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 1-6 6-4.
"Then you've got guys like Oakes (O'Connell), who has had a career high this week, Popyrin, so many guys..."
But as Australian tennis waits for the return of the injured Nick Kyrgios, it's de Minaur who's definitely leader of the pack, the No.18 seed demonstrating why by dismantling world No.73 Ivashka to set up a clash with Argentina's world No.49 Tomas Martin Etcheverry.
Irritated by a "lapse of concentration" that let the Belarusian back to snatch the second set, de Minaur was delighted with his own sang froid at regrouping calmly and resuming his dominance.
There was some glorious stuff from him. One running lob followed by a reflex volley winner off an Ivashka smash was the most spectacular of de Minaur's 35 winners amid his 10 breaks of serve.
Later, O'Connell did look troubled by an oblique strain as he lost eight games in a row before needing a medical timeout, but the world No.77 wouldn't make excuses, just saying he was mystified by another sub-par Roland Garros display after a terrific season.
Popyrin, the third Sydneysider on duty, found rejuvenated Karatsev too good as the Russian started to resemble the comet who wowed the Australian Open two years ago to reach the semi-finals.
Hunter later learned her formidable second-round test will be against Elina Svitolina, Ukraine's former world No.3, who's returned to the sport after becoming a mother and looked good in a 6-2 6-2 victory over 26th seed Martina Trevisan.
AUSSIES IN ACTION ON DAY THREE AT ROLAND GARROS ON TUESDAY:
Men's singles, first round
Max Purcell v Jordan Thompson, starting 1900 AEST