Aussie tennis star Alexei Popyrin has stunned fans after earning a spot in the round of 16 in Rome for the first time having taken out a top 10 player on the way. Popyrin has been in mixed form in 2023 with a 9-10 record, but his latest run in Rome has stunned Aussie fans.
The 23-year-old became the first player into the round of 16 having knocked out Russian Roman Safiullin in straight sets. His defeat of Safiullin comes after a three-set epic against Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime, which saw the Aussie prevail 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
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The World No.10 entered the match in Rome against Popyrin as big favourite, but immediately found himself behind. And while the Canadian levelled, he was no match for the Australian in the third set as he pulled off a classy volley to knock out a top seed.
Against Safiullin, Popyrin won the final three games to take the first set and broke serve decisively in the 11th game of the second set. Although both sets were close, Popyrin served six aces and no double faults against Safiullin, ranked World No.103, who had put out Seb Korda, the No.22 seed in the previous round.
Popyrin is currently flying the flag for Australia in Rome having knocked out Chris O'Connell in the first round. Australia's highest ranked player, Alex de Minaur, was also knocked out in the first round of Rome.
Fans were quick to praise the young Aussie for his charge with little more than a week to go before the French Open.
You know who's had a pretty awesome week in Rome?
Well... I mean... if you're reading this, you can guess we're talking about Alexei Popyrin.
But, for real. The guy's killin' it.
After taking out Felix in round 2, Popyrin bounces Roman Safiullin, 7-5, 7-5. pic.twitter.com/cLx6DOHedq
— Tick Tock Tennis (@TickTockTennis) May 14, 2023
Fantastic win for Alexei Popyrin over Auger Aliassime 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in 3 and a quarter hours! It's the first time he's made it this far here! #IBI23
— Greg 🎾 (@GCarterTennis) May 12, 2023
He's having a brilliant year.
— Devo✞us Deo (@DevotusDeo) May 14, 2023
Great match Alexei Popyrin!
— Edda Zappia (@EddaZappia) May 14, 2023
— Courtney Walsh (@walshcee) May 14, 2023
— Tennis Byte (@tennis_byte) May 14, 2023
— Neil McMahon (@NeilMcMahon) May 14, 2023
While Popyrin has been in good form in the Italian capital, his next match-up against Holger Rune will prove a different challenge with the young Dane in brilliant clay court form in 2023. Rune defeated Fabio Fognini in a controversial match, which saw the young star booed when he entered court against the Italian.
Novak Djokovic advances in Rome
Elsewhere, Djokovic overcame a second set collapse to defeat Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic lost four consecutive games to hand the second set to Dimitrov, who won 12 straight points at one point as Djokovic struggled with his footwork, complained about the conditions of the clay on Campo Centrale and protested about several line calls.
But Djokovic raised his game when it counted most, broke Dimitrov in the opening game of the third, and improved to 11-1 in his career against the Bulgarian. "I dropped my level a bit," Djokovic said.
"But luckily I managed to find it right away in the first game, make that crucial break and kind of shape the momentum to my side. "So I'm really pleased with the way I closed out the match."
Djokovic will face Great Britain's Cameron Norrie, who beat Marton Fucsovics, of Hungary, in straight sets. Daniil Medvedev posted his first career win in Rome by beating Emil Ruusuvuori after also winning in straight sets.
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