Australian teenager Alex de Minaur revealed that courtside coaching helped him book a place in Saturday’s Next Gen ATP Finals title-match against top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece for whom having to get his own towel proved to be a distraction.
Both players dropped two sets before advancing to the final in the tournament which showcases new innovations in the men’s game.
The 19-year-old de Minaur rallied past Spain’s Jaume Munar 3-4 (5/7), 4-1, 4-1, 3-4 (4/7), 4-2, to set up a showdown with 20-year-old Tsitsipas, who later beat Russia’s Andrey Rublev 4-3 (7/3), 3-4 (5/7), 4-0, 2-4, 4-3 (7/2) in Milan.
“I had a talk with my coach,” explained de Minaur.
“I’m not used to being able to have someone to fume to, so I fumed a bit to him.
“I had to just get it all out, sit down, regroup, and just think about the next point. Because it was still one set to go and it was anyone’s game.”
De Minaur – who began the season at number 208 in the world rankings and reached a career-high 31 last month – also revealed said he had been getting tips from Australia’s former world number one Lleyton Hewitt.
“I’ve spoken to him (Hewitt) every day, after every match, he sends me a message and we sort of have a little bit of a chat.
“And it’s almost been like that the whole year. So it’s pretty crazy.”
Second seed he now stands just one win away from capping his breakout season, after entering 2018 with just two tour-level match wins to his record.
‘Find solutions yourself’
De Minaur was uncertain whether he would like the coaching through headsets to be implemented in the ATP circuit.
“One of the main things that I always loved about the sport is the individual aspect, just being you on court and you having to find a way to deal with situations.
“That being said, this week there is coaching allowed, and I’ve made very good use of it and it’s actually helped out a lot.”
De Minaur lost to Tsitsipas, ranked 15th, in their only previous meeting in the second round of the Japan Open last month.
It has also been a breakthrough season for the Greek players who claimed the ATP Most Improved Player of the Year and reached his first Masters final at the Canadian Open.
“I think it would be a fantastic year-end,” said Tsitsipas of winning in Milan.
He was pushed hard by Rublev, coming through despite medical treatment during his game after dropping serve in the fifth game of the decider when he angrily demolished the courtside headset.
“The coaching on court I’m really not a big fan of. I think the player should find solutions by himself,” said Tsitsipas, who captured his first in Stockholm last month.
The Greek player, meanwhile, was also not a fan fan of players having to get their own towels from a rack courtside with no ballkids to run for them.
“One thing that I didn’t like that much was the towel thing,” he said.
“I was always, you know, had to run for the towel, always had it in my mind when I was playing.”