Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka kicked off his 2021 season with a win at the Murray River Open in Melbourne. Wawrinka, ranked at No. 18 in the world, recovered from a set down to beat Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6 6-3 6-1.
Kukushkin has never been an easy opponent for Wawrinka but the Swiss now leads their head-to-head 3-2 after his latest win over the Kazakh. "It felt okay. I'm happy to get the win and I'm ready to start a new tournament, a new year, especially after a few months out," Wawrinka said, per the ATP website.
"But really happy to get the win." After losing the first set, Wawrinka claimed four breaks in the rest of the match and lost none of his service games to claim a comeback win. "I was not playing my best tennis at the beginning," Wawrinka said.
"I was pushing the ball a bit too much, but I started to play a bit better, I felt the ball a bit better, so I tried to be a bit more aggressive."
Wawrinka plays next against Alex Bolt
Next up for former world No.
3 Wawrinka will be Australian Bolt, who beat Mackenzie McDonald. Meanwhile, home favorite Alexei Popyrin also claimed a win at the Murray River Open as he beat Tommy Paul 6-4 6-3. "I played really solid from all aspects of my game.
I served really well, I was able to hit my forehand as well as I hoped. My backhand was really solid, and I was playing an aggressive game which yesterday I didn’t really do,” Popyrin said. A day earlier, Popyrin claimed a tight 6-7 (8) 7-6 (2) 7-6 (7) win over Borna Gojo.
"Going down six match points yesterday I think all the pressure has been relieved off me, so I’m now able to play freely and just to play my game and enjoy it out there. That’s what I did today,” Popyrin said.