A PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO in south Melbourne is not typically where you will find Alex de Minaur. The 24-year-old is Australia’s top-ranked tennis player and is far more at home chasing a small yellow ball for hours on end, than he is showcasing the latest Polo Ralph Lauren collection.
“That was definitely something different,” he says, finally sitting down after a four-hour shoot with Esquire. “It’s something I'm not used to. In fact, it’s my first time doing something like this, so it was quite interesting. Fun at the end, it kind of took me a bit of time to loosen up, that's for sure.”
De Minaur embraces his first foray into modelling like a true professional, bringing the same dedication and seriousness that reflects his character on the tennis court. If there is nothing flashy about the Sydneysider, his dedication and work ethic are second to none in his quest for glory. At the recent Australian Open, he played one match that lasted four hours, 14 minutes. But after almost four hours on his feet today, with several outfit changes, he’s feeling it.
“It's funny because sometimes you're spending four hours on the tennis court and that feels less tiring than this does,” he laughs. “I'm not really used to being in this position taking photos, making certain faces, poses, movements. When I'm on the tennis court, I'm a little bit more free and I'm used to the stuff that I do so it doesn't feel as tiring.”
Fashion is more the domain of de Minaur’s girlfriend, the British tennis player Katie Boulter. Boulter is not here today, having flown to Europe for her next tournament, but she would doubtless have enjoyed seeing de Minaur trying something new, something out of his comfort zone.
“I would say I’ve always been kind of plain in the way I dress,” he says. “Ever since Katie, I’ve started to dress a little bit better, I must admit. Before her I would be quite happy to put on a hoodie and shorts. But since being with Katie, my dress sense has elevated, that’s for sure.”
If de Minaur is finding the photoshoot intimidating, he isn’t showing it. As his agent and manager chat in the background, he listens to direction, asks questions of the photographers and does whatever is asked of him. And he carries the clothes well, despite a few laughs at his expense. “You’re this close to being fired,” he says to his long-time manager, who stifles a laugh as de Minaur emerges in a particularly bright fit.
Tennis can be a lonely sport. In singles, players are alone on the court, trying to problem-solve and out manoeuvre their opponent in search for a way to win. There’s a lot of travel, numerous weeks on end spent in hotels and a lot of time dissecting what went right or wrong. It’s tough for someone like de Minaur, who values family and friendship so much; for whom being a good person is as important as being the best player he can be. “We’re all human beings, right?” he says. “We’ve all got different jobs, different stories. No human is more important than the other.
“For me, loyalty is one of the most important attributes. Ultimately, I want to look after my closest friends, family and team. Because that’s what’s important. They’ve also sacrificed a lot for me and helped me out through this journey. I just love the time that I’ve been able to be on the same journey. I’ve had the same people from the start until the end. That’s pretty special.”
Today’s shoot is being held on the second Thursday of the Australian Open, one of the four ‘Grand Slams’ of tennis, along with Wimbledon, the French Open and US Open. De Minaur would have hoped to still be there but he was beaten in the fourth round by the Russian, Andrey Rublev, in an exhausting match.
“One hundred per cent, I would much rather be playing,” he admits. “And it is tough. It has been quite difficult doing a lot of these things while I’m looking at the players still playing in the tournament that I wanted to be in, in the rounds that I wanted to be competing in. So it is difficult. But at the same time, I’m trying to look a little bit more bigger-picture, to not be too hard on myself and know that I’ll have more chances.”
De Minaur broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time in January of this year. At the age of 24—he turns 25 in February—‘Demon’ considers himself in the “third tier of the top 10” but has begun to have success against the top players, including the world No 1, Novak Djokovic, whom he beat in Perth in January. One of the fastest players around a tennis court, he has emerged as the leader for a new generation of Australian players, all of whom look up to him and admire the example he sets. It’s something he’s rightly proud of.
“For me, loyalty is one of the most important attributes. Ultimately, I want to look after my closest friends, family and team. Because that's what's important."
“It’s actually amazing, all of the Australian players sent me a message after my loss against Rublev,” he says. “You won’t see that on social media or anything like that, but the fact that they messaged me and just let me know how well I’m playing, how good I’m looking, all these things, that means the world to me. It means that we have each other’s back a lot. They genuinely want the best for me, as I do for them, so I think that’s what creates a good culture.”
De Minaur is a very different character to another of Australia’s most talked-about tennis stars. While Nick Kyrgios, who was runner-up at Wimbledon in 2022, is an entertaining yet at-times polarising figure, de Minaur is unassuming and composed, intent in getting the best out of his talent. Kyrgios has been supportive, he says, and de Minaur is particularly close to his teammates in the Davis Cup team, echoing the legendary era of Australian tennis in the 1960s and 1970s when the likes of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, Tony Roche and Margaret Court travelled together and dominated the sport.
“Being Australian, ultimately (means) having each other’s back. Especially the Davis Cup squad, that’s a tightknit group,” he says.
BORN IN SYDNEY to a Uruguayan father and Spanish mother, de Minaur moved with his family to Spain when he was five until he was 13, when they returned to Australia to finish his education. Proud to be Australian, he speaks fluent Spanish and, as his manager reveals, French, too. He returns to Alicante whenever he can to catch up with family and his dog, a golden retriever called Enzo.
“The dog gets a lot of love when I'm home,” he says, his eyes lighting up. “Whenever we're in Spain, with Katie, we're always out there taking the dog out to the beach, he loves the ocean, and we take him out for a couple of runs. It's great.”
De Minaur and Boulter have become something of a power couple in the tennis world, particularly in Britain where, for two weeks every summer during Wimbledon, Boulter gets extra attention from the tabloid newspapers. Last year, de Minaur was amazed to see paparazzi waiting outside their hotel trying to get a photo of them. But the pair are relatively low-key.
“We live quite a private life, so very rarely will people find out about our life, if we don't tell them,” he says. “I think that's probably not going to change. Whatever happens between us, if we want to share, we will share it, if not, then we won't.”
In Australia, too, more and more people are starting to recognise him in the street, something he admits feels “a bit weird. But nothing’s really changed. I’m still doing the same thing. I’m still going to the same spots for breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner.” Luckily, the people seem to have his best wishes at heart. “I’ve been very fortunate here in Australia that everyone seems to have my back,” he says. “It is amazing to feel all the support. I think they see someone who has made playing for Australia a priority, is a competitor, is a fighter, and I guess is quite a normal kid.”
Alicante is also where de Minaur indulges his other true love: cars. Growing up, he and his father would watch episodes of Top Gear or Wheeler Dealer, where classic cars were restored. “I just love the uniqueness of it,” he says. “The first car I bought was a 1973 Mini, which is still going and just turned 50 years old. Currently, it’s at the mechanic, just getting a little top up. Sadly, it wasn’t running too smoothly last time I was home but it’s still my baby and it’s my daily driver.”
De Minaur also has a red 1967 Mustang Fastback and an AC Cobra replica. When he moved to Monaco he had no space for the cars so they remained in Spain. He turned his attention to watches, becoming fascinated by “how complex the mechanisms and workings of a watch are”.
AUTHENTICITY IS AT THE HEART of everything de Minaur does, from the way he carries himself to what he likes about cars and watches. “I don't particularly want something that everyone has,” he says. “It doesn't matter what the brand name or anything is, I just like to find unique pieces that are different and shout my name. I just like it being special.”
As his manager sends a snap of de Minaur in the next outfit to Boulter, someone suggests the background music be changed to something “more upbeat” and out comes ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by Wham! The atmosphere is relaxed, jovial and happy; exactly the way de Minaur enjoys it.
“It is amazing to feel all the support. I think they see someone who has made playing for Australia a priority, is a competitor, is a fighter, and I guess is quite a normal kid.”
His relationship with Boulter has been good for his tennis and his fashion sense, which included buying his first suit in London recently, but also in other ways. “She teaches me to enjoy life, enjoy the process, not let results dictate your life,” he says. “At times, I’ve been very hard on myself and I’ve taken losses very, very badly. But the sheer fact of being with her, I’ve been able to snap out of it so much quicker and learn to enjoy it and see the good things about life off the court.”
After what he describes as a “positive Australian summer”, a busy year lies ahead for de Minaur, with the Olympics in Paris a major goal. He wants to establish himself permanently in the top 10 and make his mark at the Grand Slams, where he has been to the quarter-finals just once so far. In a sport where the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and the new Australian Open champion, Italy’s Jannik Sinner, have begun to step up, de Minaur’s stock is on the rise but he knows there’s still a long way to go. One thing is for sure, though: he will do everything possible to take himself to the next level.
“The one thing I want to achieve in my career is that I can sit on the couch, once it’s all said and done and know that I gave myself the best shot and I did everything I could,” he says. “I don’t want to have any regrets. That means getting the most out of myself and seeing where I need to improve, what I need to do in certain situations to ultimately be able to finish my career and be content and know that I gave it my all.”
The shoot is done and the ever-courteous de Minaur thanks everyone involved for their time and guidance. Is he taking any of the clothes home? “I’ve seen a couple of things that I did quite enjoy, so I’ll have to ask nicely,” he says.