Rising local star Alexei Popyrin has saved four match points to send number 13 seed David Goffin packing in a massive first-round upset at the Australian Open.
- Popyrin defeated Goffin 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6), 6-3
- This is the third year in a row Popyrin has reached the Australian Open second round
- He joins Chris O’Connell as a day-two winner among the Australian men’s contingent
Popyrin’s Davis Cup teammate and Australia’s top-ranked men’s player, Alex de Minaur, also won through to the second round after beating outspoken American Tennys Sandgren in straight sets.
The 21-year-old Popyrin looked down for the count late in the fourth set when Goffin served for the match at 5-4.
But the Australian saved two match points in that game and a further two in the tiebreaker before stepping up a gear in the deciding set against the flagging Belgian to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 in three hours and 43 minutes.
It is a significant win in his young career, with the 15th-ranked Goffin a former Australian Open quarter-finalist.
His reward is an eminently winnable second-round encounter with South African Lloyd Harris.
Popyrin only formally received his Open wildcard last week after taking the calculated risk to skip the qualifying tournament in Doha.
He is ranked 113 in the world but has reached as high as 87 on the ATP standings.
The 2017 French Open junior champion has reached the third round at Melbourne Park in each of the past two years.
De Minaur takes down Sandgren
De Minaur continued his hot start to the year to charge into the second round.
After missing last year’s Open with an abdominal tear, de Minaur returned to Melbourne Park with purpose in his 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 rout on Tuesday.
The win comes after de Minaur, who made the US Open quarter-finals last year, snared his fourth career title last month in Turkey.
“I was able to get through the first-set nerves and loosen up a bit and play some of my best tennis, so I’m very happy with that,” de Minaur said after the match.
“A big thing with me is to try and stay in the moment, stay focused and try to win every point out there.
“I came out and played some great tennis in the second and third sets and saved the legs.”
De Minaur’s superior court speed and fitness may have in part been due to the fact Sandgren was one of 72 players to endure two weeks of hard quarantine upon his arrival in Australia.
Sandgren, a two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist, publicly voiced his frustration with the quarantine arrangements in Melbourne.
He released a video last month mocking Tennis Australia when he found out he would have to stay in quarantine for an extra day.
Sandgren had been given special clearance to board a charter flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne despite testing positive for COVID-19 in November and again in January.
He received an exemption after Australian health officials assessed his case history.
Popyrin and de Minaur both won their matches following the inspirational victory of their countryman Chris O’Connell, who moved through to the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
O’Connell, a wildcard in the men’s draw, defeated the 37th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.
Two of the other Australian wildcards in the men’s draw, Aleksandar Vukic and Li Tu, both lost their first-round matches on Tuesday.