There have been three tournaments last season that Alexei Popyrin couldn't make it past the third round. This season he plans on making up for the lackluster play here at the Australian Open. As soon as he came into the Melbourne Slam he met up with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round.
The Frenchman was Popyrin's idol as a kid in Sydney, Australia and just to think how far he has come in his tennis is mind-boggling. "He was my favourite player as a kid," Popyrin remarked happily. Tsonga has a reputation for being a big hitter and Popyrin saw that when he lost the tough tiebreak first set.
The Australian knew he had to get going to have a chance of winning a set. He did as he mixed and matched his strokes to over power Tsonga and win the second set 6-2. The Frenchman fought back but Popyrin was on a roll and pounced on Tsonga's weak shots and coming up to net feeling very confident.
Popyrin's strategies created his win of the third set 6-1. Reality kicked in as Tsonga was in anguish from a back injury and after a brief meet with the on-court trainer, gave the match to Popyrin. "It's just really painful to see him in pain," the young Australian sadly said.
Popyrin was confident but realistic that his second round might not be so easily won over a retirement. He met up with Spain's Jaume Munar. The Spaniard came on strong for a few games causing surprise to a confident Popyrin.
It wasn't long that the Australian dug deep on his country support in the stands. He hit the corners, middle of the court and anywhere that Munar wasn't to win the opening set of 6-2. But Munar wouldn't go down that easily he dealt with their second set tiebreak in strong fashion.
He led in a few points but Popyrin's aggressive powerful serves and returns got him the tiebreak victory. He was able to sustain that determination and fight despite his view of Australian's Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt looking on in the stands.
Popyrin continued going to his serve and volley game to lead 5-2. Munar had a few great corner shots, but it wasn't enough to seal the match. The Australian called it a second round victory. One of Australia's favorite upcoming players, Alexei Popyrin has to keep his gritty game going as he next faces Russia's Daniil Medvedev.
He had trouble with him at last year's Wimbledon run where he'd get only one set on the defiant Russian player. But looking at Medvedev's stats can make anyone get an 'ah ha' moment. He went deep onto six straight finals including the U.S.
Open. Popyrin knows how to bring on his game and simply says that "I'm going to take it one match at a time."