Alexei Popyrin: 'I can challenge Novak Djokovic'

Alexei Popyrin and Novak Djokovic will battle in the Wimbledon R3

by Jovica Ilic
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Alexei Popyrin: 'I can challenge Novak Djokovic'
© Darrian Traynor / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic and Alexei Popyrin will embrace their second match at Majors in 2024 in the Wimbledon third round. Novak battled past Alexei at the Australian Open, and the Aussie will try to repeat that performance and challenge the 24-time Major winner.

While admitting he is facing the world's finest grass-courter, Popyrin will try to become the first Aussie with a Major win over the Serb since the 2006 US Open! Alexei will not have the support he had at Rod Laver Arena in January, but he is still confident about his chances.

World no. 47 defeated Thiago Monteiro in the first round at the All England Club before ousting the 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry in five sets in just under four hours, setting the clash against Novak Djokovic. The Serb underwent a knee procedure a month ago in Paris.

However, he recovered in time for Wimbledon, playing well so far and moving into the third round with triumphs over Vit Kopriva and Jacob Fearnley.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2024© Francois Nel / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak did not play at his best against Alexei at the beginning of the season at the Australian Open.

Still, after a massive battle, the defending champion earned a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory in three hours and 11 minutes in the second round. Carried by the partisan crowd, Popyrin wasted four set points in the third set, allowing Djokovic to steal it and seal the deal in the fourth, finishing the duel a couple of minutes before midnight.

Novak battled with his opponent, the minor virus and a heckler in the stands, repelling all the challenges and moving through, earning the 30th consecutive Australian Open victory. Djokovic played better behind the first serve and tamed his strokes nicely, landing the same number of winners and errors and taking advantage of Popyrin's 58 unforced errors.

Djokovic faced seven break points and defended five (four at 4-5 in the third set), keeping the pressure on the other side.

Alexei Popyrin, Australian Open 2024© Morgan Hancock / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Alexei Popyrin will try to stun Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon.

Alexei fought well and suffered only three breaks, giving everything but falling in four sets.

Novak served well in the opening set and pressured his opponent in three straight return games. Popyrin survived the early challenges and stayed in touch. However, the Aussie experienced a break in game eight after the Serb's running forehand crosscourt winner at the net.

Djokovic served for the set at 5-3 and closed it with a backhand down the line winner, wrapping up the first part of the encounter in 39 minutes. Popyrin raised the level behind the initial shot in the second set, producing four fine holds and maintaining the pressure on the other side.

Novak suffered a break at 15 in the fourth game after Alexei's volley winner at the net. The home favorite landed a service winner in the next one, holding at love and moving 4-1 in front. With a boost by his side, Popyrin repeated that in the fifth game and opened a 5-2 gap.

Alexei Popyrin, Wimbledon 2024© Mike Hewitt / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Alexei felt the pressure in the ninth game, spraying a forehand error and facing three break points. Alexei missed a forehand on the third, bringing Novak back to the positive side and missing a chance to clinch the set.

Instead of building on that, Djokovic struggled behind the initial shot at 4-5, allowing his opponent to secure another break with a lob winner and level the overall score after an hour and 19 minutes. They served well in the first nine games of the third set, and Novak needed another fine hold at 4-5 to prolong the battle.

The defending champion lost focus and faced four set points that could have pushed the home hero closer to the finish line. Djokovic stayed calm and denied them, two after Popyrin's massive errors. The Serb held, and the set went into a tie break.

Novak opened a 4-2 lead with a forehand down the line winner and earned two set points after Alexei's backhand error.

Alexei Popyrin, Wimbledon 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Djokovic forced the rival's mistake on the first, clinching the breaker and feeling a massive relief after struggling physically.

They produced five holds in the first half of the fourth set before Novak stepped in on the return in the sixth game. Djokovic broke Popyrin at love and earned the crucial advantage. Novak cemented it with a service winner in game seven and created three match points on the return at 5-2.

Alexei made one last push and defended them with winners, landing two more and closing the game in style. However, Djokovic stayed focused and held at 15 at 5-4, sealing the deal and beating an inspired opponent. "Novak is probably the finest grass-court player.

Despite recent surgery, he is super comfortable on this surface and moves really well. He is fit, and I must deliver my A-game to challenge him. I had my chances against Novak in Melbourne. I felt comfortable at Rod Laver Arena after feeling the crowd's support.

However, Novak will be a different beast at Wimbledon. I can not say much about my confidence level, but I will step on the court and enjoy the moment. I feel like I have the game to challenge Novak," Alexei Popyrin said, reflecting on his previous match and expressing his determination to face Djokovic at Wimbledon.

Alexei Popyrin Novak Djokovic Wimbledon
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