Australia's Alexei Popyrin was just eight years old when France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga made his incredible run to the final of the Australian Open in 2008. Popyrin says he was a big fan of the Frenchman for many years while growing up and even tried to emulate him but will be ready to beat him when they meet in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Speaking to The Brisbane Times, Popyrin says, "I was eight years old. It was a long time ago. But it’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to be special when I go out there just before the coin toss on the other side of the net to him.
I think I’m over that (being star struck) I’m more going out there to compete. It’s my job to play. I’m used to it. It just gives the match a bit more excitement for me. It’s not tough. You still want to go out there and beat him, even though he was your idol.
Growing up, you watched him play, you tried to play like him. It’s going to be fun." Popyrin says one of his primary goals for 2020 is to reach the second week of a Grand Slam. "I wanted to improve everything in my game.
Backhand, forehand, serve. I was just trying to get everything better and come forward more. Approach the net. All that stuff. That really suits my game, I reckon. I think it will prove successful against any player. It’s not my game to run around the baseline and just grind for balls.
I’m a big guy, I move well for a big guy and I’m more confident and better when I’m inside the court. The last couple of years I have started slow at the start of the year - in the first two tournaments - but I’ve always, for the slams, brought my game and my level up."