Race to the Final 4: Alexei Popyrin, the Sniper in ambush

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With two weekends left in the inaugural Ultimate Tennis Showdown, the race to the semi-finals is very much in flux. These four players - Feliciano Lopez, David Goffin, Alexei Popyrin and Corentin Moutet - all have a chance to shake up the status quo before its over. Third episode with The Sniper Popyrin.

Six matches down, three to go in round robin play at Ultimate Tennis Showdown. Behind Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and Richard Gasquet, four players are likely to battle for the last semi-final spot, thanks to Dominic Thiem’s withdrawal. Let’s review their chance to seize the final ticket. 

Alexei Popyrin will honour his nickname to the end. After six games, the Australian is still in a position to qualify for the semi-finals, and it’s already a good performance for the player who is the second lowest-ranked player in the field behind Dustin Brown. But against Lopez, Goffin and Moutet, Popyrin doesn’t compare favourably, as he is the least reliable of the four.

The Pros for Popyrin

  • He is at home at UTS

Five weeks is a long time for players. Popyrin is less handicapped than his rivals by potential mental wear and tear, because he is playing at his full-time training base at the Mouratoglou Academy. His parents, girlfriend and loved ones are there with him for the duration of the tournament, and he has his apartment on site.

Alexei Popyrin, UTS 2020

  • His rocket serve

As he showed during his solid victory against Benoit Paire, when he is on top form, his serve is devastating (7 aces). It is the Aussie’s main weapon, and an ideal launching pad for his second: his forehand (14 winning strokes against Paire).

The Cons for Popyrin

  • He is way back in the standings

He displays a record of three wins and three losses, like Lopez and Goffin. But Popyrin nevertheless starts from further back in the race for the semi-finals. He has lost more quarters than he has won, unlike his direct competitors. He also has the worst point differential of the four, -39, while everyone else is in the positive.

In the event of a tie, the UTS regulations stipulate that the number of victories and the lowest number of defeats decide the ranking. Next come set-average and point-average. Thus, winning will not be enough for the Australian. It will be necessary to do it by collecting a maximum of points.

  • Rough Competition Awaits

Gasquet on Saturday, then Berrettini on Sunday. Two very large challenges await the Australian this weekend. Thus far Popyrin has not impressed against the big names in this UTS. Defeated 4-0 by Goffin, he was behind three quarters to Tsitsipas before snatching the last quarter on a deciding point to salvage some pride.

In his career, Popyrin has never beaten a player ranked higher than world No 33 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2020 Australian Open), apart from a match in Melbourne in 2019, in which Dominic Thiem forfeited during the third set when he was down two sets. At UTS, The Sniper has managed only relatively unconvincing victories: against Paire, who self-destructed (15 unforced errors and 15 double faults), against Lopez, world No 58, at the start of the tournament, when he was not yet in form, and Eliott Benchetrit, the world No 208.

Benoît Paire vs Alexei Popyrin, UTS 2020

  • With The Sniper, it’s hit and miss 

The Australian gives the impression of not having a plan B in his game. When his service and his forehand are not settled, then Popyrin can very quickly scuttle himself. He was hammered in two quarters against Tsitsipas, 19-8 and 20-8, and two others against Goffin, 20-9 and 20-6. When the match does not go in his direction, Popyrin frustrates quickly, as he demonstrated against Moutet, where he grew dejected, and against Tsitsipas, who blew him off the court.

His unstoppable asset: His dog, sitting in his box and always by his side during training.

Percentage chance of seeing The Sniper in the last four: 5%

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