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Popyrin: ‘Beating Felix Auger-Aliassime is the best win of my career’

The young Australian has started 2023 in a very big way

Alexei Popyrin Tennis – Nottingham Open – Nottingham Tennis Centre, Nottingham, Britain – June 10, 2022 Australia’s Alexei Popyrin reacts during his quarter final match against Britain’s Ryan Peniston (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Coming through qualifying and then playing a tournament’s second seed in blazing sunshine isn’t the usual way to pick up the best win of your life – but that’s what Australia’s Alexei Popyrin has done at the Adelaide International.

He defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6 (5) to reach the Round of 16 and had no doubt about the magnitude of his achievement. When asked whether this was the best win of his life, he replied: “I would say so. Yeah, for me, obviously he’s one of the in-form players that we have on the tour right now, so yeah, if we go by ranking and by performance, then yeah, it’s probably one of the better wins of my career.”

The 23-year-old had played a three-setter against Wu Yibing in the final round of qualifying, and said it had taken an unsurprising physical toll.

“You get match practice, you get match fit, but yesterday was really, really hot. We played for two and a half hours in the sun, 36-degree heat,” he said. “Came off the court and my calf started cramping a little bit. That’s why I called the doctor out. Felt a little bit of spasms in my calf today.

“From a physical point of view, no, it didn’t help, but from a kind of match play, match practice point of view, it definitely helped a lot. It helped settle the nerves. I think if I would have came out today being my first match of the year, then I probably would have been a bit more nervous. There would have been a bit more errors here and there, but honestly match practice, it never hurts, and that’s what I took qualifying as, just match practice to get up to rhythm of – just to get a head start from all the players that are playing in the main draw, playing their first matches.”

Popyrin: “I back myself to win against the top players”

And Popyrin thinks this kind of victory is a pay-off for the work he has put in, plus an immediate return on the work of his new coach Xavier Malisse.

“He’s been a great addition for me. He’s really kind of re-teaching me how to play tennis but in a more calm way.

“After the year I had last year, it’s a really, really great win for me, but…it’s something that I fully expect myself to do, to be able to beat these players, and it’s how I come out to play these matches against these guys.”

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