Late in 2020, as the tennis tours finally started to roll again, The Ultimate Tennis Showdown was in full flight and preparing for a blockbuster third edition, in Antwerp, Belgium. For the first time in the history of the event, UTS was going to be held away from the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice, and in conjunction with an official ATP event (The European Open, an ATP 250).
It was a perfect package. On the weekend before the tournament, stars arrived to give the fans a taste of tennis without constraints – what could the sport look like if the imagination was allowed to run wild?
In a six-player field that included tour stalwarts Dan Evans, Taylor Fritz, Richard Gasquet, Pablo Andujar, Alex de Minaur and Feliciano Lopez – more new changes were introduced to keep the UTS format entertaining, and challenging.
That talented sextet congregated on the weekend before the main draw began in Antwerp and carried out their own high-stakes affair.
It was De Minaur – nicknamed “The Demon,” of course – that stole the show. The Aussie was in absolutely breathtaking form, but he didn’t win easily in the final. He was pushed to the brink by UTS veteran Richard Gasquet, who had finally reached the final for the first time after valiantly qualifying for the semi-finals at UTS1 and UTS2.
De Minaur snagged the victory, 24-9, 15-14, 17-16, 19-11, and later said:
“It’s been an interesting new format. I had fun. Definitely helped me out a lot to get some on-court time and get used to this court for the following week. I’m very happy to be able to come out and play some good tennis.”
At one point De Minaur snatched his brother from the bleachers and brought him on board as his coach. It was pure gold from an entertainment perspective, as the pair shared the mic during changeovers, talking tactics and joking. It was also a productive pairing. Atypical to be sure, but ultimately effective – just like the competition itself.
Like the previous three UTS winners (Matteo Berrettini, Alexander Zverev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova), the Demon was wide-eyed when he first laid eyes on the thunderbolt trophy and he had a blast during the competition’s one-of-a-kind, heavy metal trophy ceremony.
“I’m hoping (the trophy) gives me superpowers,” De Minaur said. “I’m sure I’ll find somewhere in my house for it.”