Alex de Minaur has given everything as always but still his typically valiant effort against Stefanos Tsitsipas came to a predictably anti-climactic end in their high-quality World Tennis Tournament quarter-final in Rotterdam.
It was another chastening afternoon for the Australian No.1 who lacks nothing in heart but simply couldn’t cope with the extra firepower of the Greek, who beat him for the eighth time in succession.
Tsitsipas’s 6-4 6-4 victory in just over an hour-and-a-half in the Dutch indoor tournament showcased the world No.4 at his best as he seeks to capitalise on his recent fine run to the semi-finals in the Australian Open.
Meanwhile in the quarter-finals of the inaugural Dallas Open, Australian Jordan Thompson was overpowered 6-3 6-0 by rising American Jenson Brooksby.
In de Minaur, Tsitsipas found a game opponent willing to chase down everything but one who he always knows he has the ammunition to counter.
These two contemporaries have now played 10 times in the pro ranks over the past five years and Tsitsipas has won nine — while dropping only five sets. To say it’s a match-up that the Greek enjoys is an understatement.
On the defensive
In a familiar pattern, 22-year-old de Minaur quickly found himself on the back foot, trying to hold on desperately to his serve in the fifth game of the opening set as Tsitsipas hammered the piledriver groundstrokes, earning five break points.
When he earned a sixth, the dam burst for the world No.34, who double faulted to give away the key break that led to Tsitsipas taking the first set in 46 minutes.
Absolutely dominant behind his first serve in that first set, Tsitsipas started racing away with the match by earning two more quick breaks but it says everything about de Minaur’s battling attitude that he managed to briefly stem the tidal wave of 22 winners and earn his first break.
Tsitsipas, winning 27 of 33 points behind his first serve, always seemed in control, the 23-year-old top seed moving smoothly towards what would, surprisingly, be his very first ATP 500 title.
His semi-final opponent will be a Czech qualifier, world No.137 Jiri Lehecka, who continued his surprise run with a 6-3 1-6 7-5 win over Italian Lorenzo Musetti.
Yet for de Minaur, hammered by Jannik Sinner in Melbourne, it will be back to the drawing board as he seeks yet again to make that elusive step from being a worthy, nuisance challenger against the very best players to becoming their conqueror.
Second-seeded Andrey Rublev will face Canadian third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the other Rotterdam semi-final.