'Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay-courter of all time,' says Alexei Popyrin

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'Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay-courter of all time,' says Alexei Popyrin

The most promising Australian youngster, Alexei Popyrin, entered the season with 15 ATP wins under his belt. Working hard during the pre-season period, the 21-year-old Sydney native has already earned 15 ATP wins in 2021, raising his level and becoming a contender for high ranking positions.

The Aussie has played well so far at the Madrid Open, beating Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round and toppling the top-20 star Jannik Sinner in the second to set Rafael Nadal clash. Popyrin will face Rafa on Thursday, feeling optimistic about his game and planning to give his best against the rival whom he described as the greatest clay-courter of all time.

Nadal and Popyrin will meet for the first time. The Spaniard seeks another good result against the upcoming star following a commanding win over his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday. Rafa is trying to win the first Madrid Open title since 2017, failing to go all the way in 2018 and 2019 and trying to improve that and claim the second consecutive ATP title after Barcelona.

Alexei Popyrin will face Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open on Thursday.

"I'm just going to go out and have fun. I've got to play against Rafael Nadal on his favorite surface, and he's the greatest of all time on clay.

Maybe, I'll watch a bit of his 2009 loss against Soderling and get some tips from there, try and build some tactics on how to play against him. I'm not going to go out there thinking, 'I'm going to lose 6-1, 6-1.

I'm going to give it my all, put in a fight. I have to believe that I can actually play because I think I have the level to stay competitive against Rafa. All the cards are in his favor, but I don't mind being the underdog.

I have been the underdog for most of my career, so I'm glad to be able to be one. It's hard to rate this match against Jannik. He is a good player, but I don't think he's miles ahead of my level. I came into the match feeling confident.

I didn't step on the court thinking I would lose or that he would blow me off. His ranking might be higher, but I think my game is up there with the people who are ranked inside the top 20," Alexei Popyrin said.