Australian rising star Alexei Popyrin has cruised into the third round of Australian Open 2020 men’s singles after a clinical straight sets win over Spain’s Jaume Munar.
Popyrin breezed through the first and third sets in quick time, but had to overcome a four-point deficit in the second set tiebreaker en route to a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory in two hours and four minutes on show court three.
“In the tie break, I just, yeah, grinded it out,” Popyrin said.
On the whole, Popyrin played with a confidence that belied his age and 96th ranking.
Playing against Munar, two years old and six ranking spots higher, the 20-year-old Popyrin dictated proceedings in a dominant performance.
He controlled play from the baseline, overpowering Munar and putting him on the back foot, before pouncing on anything loose.
The Philipp Wagner-coached Popyrin produced a well thought out match, winning the tactical battle against a frustrated Munar with no answers.
In times of concern, Popyrin kept level headed.
The icing on the cake for Popyrin was an efficient service game, in which he was a perfect 14-from-14 games over the match.
Asked what he liked about his match, Popyrin replied: “Everything”.
“I think I played a pretty solid game throughout the whole match,” he said. “I served well, didn’t get broken, which was a plus.
“My forehand was working really well today. I think his game style kind of gave me a little bit more time. I got to hit balls on the rise, attack, come in, be on the front foot most of the match.”
Popyrin has reached the third round at the Australian Open for a second straight year.
He faces a tough match up with young Russian star Daniil Medvedev, the 23 year old fourth seed.
It will be a massive ask for Popyrin, who is 92 spots behind Medvedev in the rankings.
“He’s probably the hottest opponent you could get right now,” Popyrin said. “I played him at Wimbledon, I had opportunities.
“I took him to four, won the first set, was a break up in the third. I think I’m a better player right now than I was in Wimbledon.”
In one of the more enthralling matches of day four in the women’s singles, Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic was out-lasted by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at Rod Laver Arena.
Tomljanovic produced a gallant performance in front of her home fans, but Muguruza finished the stronger to take a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win in two hours and 21 minutes.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Tomljanovic, who feels like she is on the verge of taking a big scalp.
“Playing a tough match like this does nothing for me,” Tomljanovic said. “Winning would do something, but, at the same time, I’m on the right path.
“I think any week could be my week … if I continue to play this sort of way and don’t get down on myself.”
Tomljanovic conceded that she went into her shell in the third set.
Having leveled the match at one set apiece with confident stroke play, she might have been a little too defensive in the third set and Muguruza, a two-time grand slam champion, pounced.
Asked where should could improve in a match that was tightly contested, Tomljanovic wanted to be “a little more courageous” at the pointy end of the match.
“Being consistently aggressive like I was in that second set,” she said. “Going for it more and believing that I can do that for two or three sets at a time and not just one set. Against a player like Garbine today, those little things make a difference.”
Tomljanovic is on the right track.
She is playing her tennis with more consistency, even if the big scalp is eluding her.
“My quality of tennis is more consistent,” she said. “There isn’t too many drops, so that’s a positive.
“There’s still so much to work on and improve and that just gives me more confidence that I can do even better.”