John Millman and Jordan Thompson will launch their French Open bids refreshed and relaxed after being treated to some surprise Spanish hospitality from their buddy, Australia’s top men’s player Alex de Minaur.
Sydneysider de Minaur, who has a European base in the charming port town of Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca, felt for his Aussie mates on their exhausting and sometimes dispiriting slog around pandemic-hit Europe.
So, for the fortnight before Roland Garros, ‘Demon’ tried to create a home-from-home, inviting the pair to his sanctuary, where he lives with his parents, so they could all prepare together for the Paris grand slam.
“I’ve shown them a bit of Spanish hospitality, shown them around Alicante with my family,” explained de Minaur.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones who’s got a base in Spain so I’ve been able to stay there and break up the travel a fair bit.
“I was just trying to provide the Aussies with a bit of a base because I know they’re going through a long year of travelling and it’s very tough for them not being able to go home.
“Even though it’s won’t be as good as home, it’s somewhere they can just put their feet up, relax and switch off.”
“Even though we’re still having a training block – we had two great training weeks – it doesn’t really feel like it because we’ve been doing different stuff. Going out to dinner, playing golf, playing paddle – I think they’ve enjoyed it.”
The fruits of their stay could become evident when Millman and Thompson open up on Monday with difficult opening draws on the same court.
Australian No.2 Millman has a first meeting with Gianluca Mager, a dangerous Italian who beat de Minaur at his home Open in Rome recently, before Thompson then moves on to Court No.8 to tackle Spain’s doughty Jaume Munar.
World No.22 De Minaur himself won’t be in action until Tuesday, when he faces Italy’s world no.77 Stefano Travaglia, but he sounds completely encouraged by his new-found appreciation of the clay.
“I’ve come into clay this season being very positive and really looking to enjoy and tell myself, ‘I’ve had some good matches on this surface’,” said the 22-year-old, whose won three matches on the surface this season compared to just two over the rest of his career.
“I really think I can make my game suit the clay quite well. In the past, I probably haven’t given myself the chance I deserve mentally but I’ve played some good matches on the surface this summer. It’s definitely built a lot of confidence.”
Getting past Travaglia, who he beat in their only previous encounter, could kick off a breakthrough run in Paris, where de Minaur has only one win to his name.
“If I can have a good win first round, hopefully that’ll set me to have a very nice Roland Garros, that’s for sure. That’s the plan,” he says.
Before then, he’ll be cheering on his two pals but is staying mum about which of them makes the better housemate.
“Ooo, I don’t know, tough one. You’re putting me on the spot,” smiled de Minaur.
“I’ll just keep my mouth shut and invite them back over whenever they want.”