After missing last year's Australian Open in despair, in-form Alex de Minaur says he has goosebumps thinking about returning to Melbourne Park as the country's top men's hope in 2021.
The 21-year-old tennis excitement machine has opened his season in style, claiming the first ATP trophy on offer for the year - and his fourth overall - with title glory at the Antalya Open in Turkey.
De Minaur was leading Alexander Bublik 2-0 in Wednesday night's final when the Kazakh retired injured just seven minutes into the match.
The world No.23 dropped only one set for the week in a promising build-up to the rescheduled Open starting on February 8.
"I mean, it's massive. At the start of the year that's what you need," de Minaur said after backing up his semi-final win over second-seeded world No.16 David Goffin in a somewhat anticlimactic title decider
"Look, you never know what was going to happen. I knew I had put in a great pre-season, I was ready to compete.
"I just think I gave myself the best possible chance to go deep into this tournament and I'm happy how it finished.
"I got four matches - and today - so very happy with my level and I had some quality wins."
De Minaur missed his home slam last year with an abdominal tear, the "reward" for an heroic singles and doubles campaign that helped Australia to the ATP Cup semi-finals.
"It was a bittersweet moment last year so hopefully a year later I can come back stronger and hopefully have a great Aussie summer," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to going back home and playing in front of a home crowd, that's for sure."
The high-energy Davis Cup star hated playing without fans in 2020 and is thrilled that crowds will be at 50 per cent capacity in Melbourne.
"It's exciting. I'm looking forward to it. It's probably going to give me goosebumps once I walk out there," de Minaur said.
"Especially (given) I'm fortunate enough to play in front of my home crowd, so that's going to be special.
"I can't wait to bring out all this energy I've built up for a while now. It's not the same playing without a crowd and hopefully I can get fired up and get the crowd going."
The stomach injury aside, the COVID-19 pandemic also seriously stalled de Minaur's progression last year, following a breakout three-title season in 2019, placing the Spain-based counter-puncher in long-time lockdown.
But the second-youngest player in the world's top 25 came back with a vengeance when the Tour resumed.
De Minaur made a career-best charge to the US Open quarter-finals, then reached the final in Antwerp to finish ahead of Nick Kyrgios as Australia's season-ending No.1 for the second straight year.
Australian Associated Press