[WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) def  Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2
23-year-old Alexei Popyrin has earned the biggest win of his life, taking down eighth seed American Taylor Fritz in four hours and two minutes.
The Aussie’s huge potential was on full display, serving and playing bigger than the Wimbledon quarterfinalist to move into the third round.
“Playing a match like that, winning against a player like Taylor, for me it was really, really big, really emotional, especially after the year I had last year,” Popyrin said in his press conference.
“I’ll never forget it.”
After defeating world number six Felix Auger-Aliassime earlier this month – and now recording his first completed top ten win at a major – Popyrin has the belief that he can conquer anyone.
“I have that confidence going into every match. I think I have the game to beat the guys at the top,” Popyrin said.
“For me it's very important going into a match knowing…I have the game to beat them, which I truly believe that I do.”
Up against a big-server in Fritz, Popyrin was the more dominant player behind his first strike, winning ninety-two of one-hundred and six points.
The Aussie put his rejuvenated form down to a few recent changes, including his new coach, Xavier Malisse, who joined Popyrin in October.
“It felt like it was me and [Xavier] playing against Taylor. We had eye contact after every point. We were in it together,” Popyrin said.
The 23-year-old also noted how a more relaxed mindset has helped ease some of the pressure during his matches.
“[I] just found out that tennis is probably not my whole world,” Popyrin said.
“I still have my family. I still have my girlfriend. I still love everybody around me, and they love me back equally. That for me is the most important thing.”
The 2021 Singapore Open champion had a full-house John Cain Arena crowd behind him from the outset of his five-set encounter, and the Aussie fans became increasingly loud as the match wore on.
“They were amazing. I get goose bumps just thinking about it, honestly,” Popyrin said.
“They really helped me through the tough times, especially in that fourth set tiebreak.”
“I couldn't have done it without them.”
After dropping a tight opening set, Popyrin rallied to take a two sets to love lead, before a match point went begging in the fourth, sending the contest to a decider.
Heading into his second consecutive fifth set – and the eighth if his career – Popyrin lifted above the American, breaking at 1-2 and serving his way to a remarkable victory.
The Aussie wildcard will now face 20-year-old Ben Shelton in the third round, after the rising American overcame Nicolas Jarry 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 7-5.
“I know that he's a big lefty, big serve, big from the back, likes to come forward, has a huge game. [He] is really up-and-coming with so much confidence,” Popyrin said.
“Those are tough players to play: youngsters with so much confidence. I'm going into it ready to battle.”