Before Mannarino, it was 209th-ranked Taiwanese qualifier Yu-hsiou Hsu. It is suddenly about to get a lot harder, as it almost always does as this stage of a grand slam.
Next up will be nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, in what would be a first meeting between the pair, or former top-10 star Grigor Dimitrov, who has reached the semi-finals at three of the four slams, including in Australia.
One of those options is clearly more appealing than the other, even if a left hamstring issue has left Djokovic a tad laboured, with de Minaur set to keep an eye on that match, as well as fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin’s clash with American Ben Shelton later Saturday.
“I am going to have my popcorn ready,” de Minaur said. “It’s going to be a hell of a match. Both Novak and Grigor are a hell of a competitor, so I will be switching between channels, for sure.
“I’m out here, playing against the best, and I’m just excited. It’s another chance to go out here, play against the best in the world and show what I’m made of.”
De Minaur finally claimed his maiden top-five scalp in November – at his 19th attempt – when he upset Russia’s Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Masters, but he quickly followed up with a three-set takedown of Rafael Nadal at this month’s United Cup.
Armed with all-time confidence, he then declared in the days before the Australian Open that his next goal was to break into the top 10, having been as high as No.15.
“As the person I am, as the player I am, I’m not satisfied where I am right now, so I want to keep improving and, for me, that’s [top 10] the next step, and it’s just about getting there now,” de Minaur said.
“I’m feeling great, playing some great tennis, feeling mentally fresh [and] physically fresh … this year I feel a bit better than I did the year before.
“I think I’ve always had the level to beat these guys, but now it’s the belief, after getting a few of those breakthrough wins, it’s very much possible and doable every week … I know that I can take it to these top guys.”
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