Epic Open win for Popyrin over Goffin

·3-min read

A change in mentality and improved fitness has seen Alexei Popyrin secure the biggest win of his career, sending No.13 seed David Goffin packing in a huge first-round upset at the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old local hope saved four match points in the fourth set and then stepped up a gear in the decider 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.

His reward is an eminently winnable second-round encounter with South African world No.91 Lloyd Harris.

Popyrin, who has reached the third round at Melbourne Park in each of the past two years, was elated by the win, which he rated as his best ever.

"That was No.1 - by far," Popyrin said.

"Especially against who I played, a top 20 player, and also to save match points against him and beat him in five sets when he's known as like probably one of the fittest guys on tour was really pleasing."

Popyrin, ranked 113th, said he'd worked hard on his own fitness after putting on weight during lockdown.

"I kind of lost all my physicality that I had so I've focused on my cardio and the way I feel on court in longer durations," he said.

"And, honestly, it's all paying off right now. I feel great."

Popyrin has proof - as well as the four match points today, he also saved six in the Open warm-up tournament as he overcame over Croatian Borna Gojo, and two match points to push world No.19 Grigor Dimitrov to a third set.

But the former French Open junior champion felt a change in attitude was making just as big an impact.

"After last year I decided to change my mentality on court as I was really nervous every time I got out on court, just really wanting to win to start something going," he said.

"I told my team I'm going to change my mentality and keep calm no matter what happens and I think it's really paying off."

Australia's other winners on day two included fellow wildcard Chris O'Connell, who upset German world No.37 Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5) 6-1, and 21st seed Alex de Minaur.

The top-ranked local man swept past American Tennys Sandgren 7-5 6-1 6-1, while world No.1 Ash Barty crushed Montenegrin Danka Kovinic 6-0 6-0.

Veteran Samantha Stosur had a rousing 6-4 6-4 win over local youngster Destanee Aiava.

But Aleksandar Vukic went down 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to Russian No.19 seed Karen Khachanov, as did wildcard Li Tu in a tough tussle with Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

Women's wildcard Astra Sharma blew a golden chance to advance to the second round, losing to Japanese baseliner Nao Hibino 2-6 6-3 7-5.

Maddison Inglis took the fight up to defending champion Sofia Kenin before bowing out 7-5 6-4, while veteran Arina Rodionova was eliminated 6-1 6-2 by American Madison Brengle.