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IS ALEXEI'S GAME ABOUT TO "POP"?



When Alexei Popyrin reached the third round of the 2019 Australian Open as an uber-talented 19-yearold, the future looked bright. He pushed then French 28th seed Lucas Pouille all the way in an epic five-set thriller, bowing out after sending down 16 aces and announcing himself to the tennis world. It was a mighty performance from the often roaring and starry-eyed teenager on Margaret Court Arena.


It was obvious the Sydney born youngster clearly possessed on-court weapons that many players could only dream of having and he was already showing poise beyond his years as he shone under the Grand Slam spotlight.


Despite bowing out of the tournament, Popyrin had many experts and pundits predicting he would be a prominent force down the track in men’s tennis.


Fast-forward four and half years and the now 24-year-old is starting to get on a bit of a roll.


He’s just reached a career-high singles ranking of 40 after his quarter final run at the Masters 1000 in Cincinatti in the past week, coming a fortnight after he reached a then new career high of 56 after knocking off three-time major champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the Croatia Open. Having now taken his place in the sport’s top 50, is Alexei about to surge to the level many probably thought he would reach a little sooner?


Coming off a career-best year on tour which saw him capture his first ATP title in Singapore, he started 2022 poised to break through that top 50 barrier. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to script over the next 12 months and his ranking plummeted to 120. Popyrin was still only a young man at this stage of his career, it was just he was being forced to mature in a hurry on the world stage. He new he needed to make some changes to his inner circle so he appointed former Belgian star Xavier Malisse to his team.


There were signs from the beginning of 2023 that the tide was starting to turn in his favour. In January at the Australian Open he stunned just about everyone by taking down 8th seed American, Taylor Fritz on John Cain Arena in the second round.


In the aftermath of one of his biggest victories Popyrin admitted 2022 hadn’t gone to plan and wanted to make amends. “This win means so much to me. I had the toughest year last year, didn’t win many matches. I’ve won as many matches this year as I won the whole of last year and it’s only January.”


Despite the seemingly at times slow burn, the hard work is starting to pay off and Popyrin could be about to cash in on a career which has promised plenty. It was way back in 2017 that he won the Junior title at Roland Garros so for many it feels like he has been around the traps for quite a while.


The reality is he’s still only 24 and with a game that’s starting to come together and results on the board which reflect greater consistency, there’s every reason to believe that some of those bold predictions made in the aftermath of his marathon against Pouille in 2019 may eventually crystalize.


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