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Aussie Demon prepared for biggest grand slam moment

From a clumsy “clown” to tennis’s biggest stage, Alex de Minaur is now preparing to take on US Open title favourite Dominic Thiem in Thursday’s prime-time quarter-final in New York.

De Minaur’s maiden appearance in the last eight of a grand slam will be played on Arthur Ashe Stadium in the feature night match at Flushing Meadows.

The sport’s largest arena is where de Minaur feels he belongs after serving his grand slam apprenticeship.

But de Minaur admits he didn’t always feel so comfortable and secure, trapped inside his slender 11-year-old body with shoes unusually of the same size as he wears now, a decade on.

“So it felt like a little bit of a little kid with clown shoes on. I didn’t have the best footwork, the best movement,” he recalled.

It’s an astonishing revelation from the 21-year-old, now arguably the fastest and best mover in men’s tennis and whose relentless counter-punching is often too much for his opponents.

“It was just a lot of work, especially in technique of movement from a young age,” de Minaur said.

“Look, I’ve got to deal with what God gave me. He didn’t give me the best physique, I’m not as strong or as tall as other people so I have to find ways to win.

“That’s the way I win.

“Of course I take pride and I want that to be known, I want that to be my brand of tennis.

“And I want people in the locker room to know that if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to have to go through me.

“If I could definitely blast people off the court, then trust me, I would rather do that.

“This running thing gets tiring, that’s for sure.”

Thiem, the highest-ranked player left in a draw devoid of defending champion Rafael Nadal, five-times winner Roger Federer and now the disqualified world No.1 Novak Djokovic, has only respect for de Minaur.

“He also is moving not only super fast but also very accurate. That’s what makes it even better, his movement,” the second-seeded world No.3 said.

The pair have clashed twice before with Thiem winning on both occasions.

But the Austrian said they may as well wipe the slate clean with de Minaur a completely different player now.

“These two matches were before he really had his breakthrough,” Thiem said.

“He improved massively in especially last one and a half, two years.

“He definitely developed more, especially physically, than I did. I think he was only 17 at our first match at the US Open.

“He was skinny, super fast back then already, but now he’s a man, a super experienced player already.

“It’s going to be a different story.”

The winner will play either third-seeded 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev or his fellow Russian Andrey Rublev, the 10th seed, on Saturday for a place in the final.

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