Alexei Popyrin has opened the door for passage to the Australian Open third round again after stunning 13th seed David Goffin in a five set victory.
Melbourne Park remains the 21-year-old Sydney wildcard’s happy hunting ground and now only world number 91 Lloyd Harris of South Africa stands in the way of Popyrin reaching the third round for the third straight year.
Popyrin, who has become an Oz Open giant slayer, taking at least one seeded player down in all three appearances, labelled the win “number one by far” in his career as he added Belgian Goffin to the list of victims.
The rising Aussie star saved four match points in the 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-3 win which took close to four hours effort, in front of a boisterous court three crowd.
Popyrin said he was “on the brink” in the fourth set, when he called for the physio to help him through.
Thanks to the “hot cream” he had rubbed in, his legs started pumping again, as did the crowd, and he found the will to win.
“I was like, I was nearly on the brink of losing. When you come back from match points it gives you confidence for the upcoming rounds,” Popyrin said.
“In the fourth set I felt my legs a little bit, that’s why I called the physio. He rubbed me with some hot cream.
“It was mental as well, going down a break in that fourth set, I thought it was over. I managed to dig deep and came out on top.”
🇦🇺 WHAT A MOMENT! 🇦🇺
The crowd erupts as Aussie young gun @AlexeiPopyrin99 stuns 13th seed David Goffin on Day 2!#9WWOS#AO2021#AusOpenpic.twitter.com/33Jrf9U6x5
Popyrin said a pre-tournament decision to stay calm in any situation also paid dividends.
“I’m not going to worry about if I win matches, loses matches, I am just going to go out there and fight,” he said.
“Last year, I was really nervous every time I got out on court, just really wanting to win. This pre-season I told myself, I told my team I am going to keep calm no matter what happens and it’s paying off.”
In two meetings against Harris, Popyrin has lost twice. But neither of those games have been at the Aussie’s happy hunting ground in Melbourne.
“I’m a different player, mentally I’m different, I’m different with my game now,” Popyrin said.
“It’s going to be really tough, hopefully I can perform the way I did today, with less match points.”
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