Australia’s Alexei Popyrin has achieved the third top 10 win of his career, defeating eighth-seed Taylor Fritz 6-7(4) 7-6(2) 6-4 6-7(6) 6-2 in the second round at the Australian Open.
USA talent Fritz was the much-fancied player against the 113th-ranked Aussie but struggled to assert dominance on Popyrin and the raucous Australian crowd in four hours, two minutes at John Cain Arena.
The 23-year-old has now reached the third round at the Australian Open for a third time (2019, 2020) and will now play another American Ben Shelton to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time.
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In a tight first set with games on serve until the tiebreak, Fritz got the jump on Popyrin in the breaker, jumping out to a 5-1 lead before eventually wrapping it up.
The second set was again serve to the tiebreak, but this time Popyrin got the better of the American, levelling the match at one-apiece.
Finally there was a break of serve, in the third set, as Popyrin snared Fritz’s serve in the third game and went on to win it 6-4.
With the pro-Aussie crowd in John Cain Arena spurring Popyrin on, he went down a break late in the set, meaning Fritz would serve for the set at 5-3.
But the Australian broke immediately back before holding his serve to make it 5-5 – with another tiebreak looming.
It did end up in a breaker with Popyrin getting a single match point on Fritz’s serve, but the American saved it before winning the tiebreak and taking it to a fifth set.
Popyrin didn’t let the missed opportunity deter him, snaring the early break in the fifth to lead 3-1.
The Aussie held serve immediately after to take a 4-1 lead and have a famous victory in his sight.
The next three service games went on serve, with Popyrin getting the opportunity to serve it out at 5-3.
However, the Australian didn’t need his service game, breaking Fritz and winning the contest on his second match point.
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Popyrin has beaten top 10 players Dominic Thiem (Australian Open 2019) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (Adelaide International 2022) in his career but after an injury-riddled 2021, the victory over Fritz could set up a big year for the Aussie.
Fritz will be disappointed with a second-round exit in Australia after reaching a career-high quarter-final result in a grand slam at Wimbledon last year.