Alexei Popyrin insists he won't be a pushover when he meets world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open. The Aussie put fitness concerns to rest in his first-round match, registering an impressive 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 win over wildcard and fellow Aussie Marc Polmans.
Popyrin was a late omission from last week's Adelaide International after struggling with a back issue in Brisbane but looked back to his best, smashing 20 aces as he went the entire match without his serve being broken. He progressed to the second round in under two and a half hours in front of a packed John Cain Arena.
Looking ahead to his second-round clash with Djokovic, the 24-year-old is relishing the chance to knock the ten-time Australian Open winner out. The Aussie is expected to play in front of a full house at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night and he is full of confidence.
"I don't want to go in there just thinking, 'Oh, he's probably the greatest of all time and all that'. I admire what he's done. He probably is the greatest of all time," Popyrin said. "But there is no point going into the court if I don't believe that I can (win).
"I need to have that confidence going in and the belief going in that I can win the match and that he is just the world No.1, and he is just another player for me on the opposite side of the net. I need to focus on what I have to do on the court. I have big weapons in my game that I believe can do some damage."
Alexei Popyrin believes he can take it to Novak Djokovic
Popyrin lost his only encounter with Djokovic in straight sets in Tokyo five years ago but says a lot has changed since then. "I played him when I was 19 years old," Popyrin said.
"I just broke the top 100 when I played him, qualified for that tournament. I remember that I was physically just not up to par to him. Now I'm 24 years old, five years later, a bit more experienced, bit more mature, a bit physically stronger. I would say much more physically stronger. I've improved since then. Looking forward to going out there and we'll see what I can bring."
Popyrin was one of four Australians to advance on day two. He joined 10th seed Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson and doubles world No.1 Storm Hunter in advancing through to the second round.
Rinky Hijikata distraught after five set loss to Jan-Lennard Struff
Rising Aussie tennis star Rinky Hijikata, however, didn't get the outcome he so craved, left inconsolable after being knocked out of the Australian Open on Monday night in a five-set thriller. Hijikata threw everything he had at 24th seed Jan-Lennard Struff in a three-hour and 50-minute battle but fell agonisingly short, with the German star prevailing 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-7 7-6.
The match didn't finish until after 12.30am and post-match back in the gym, the Aussie was seen with his head buried in his arms as he slumped over an exercise bike. Hijikata appeared in prime position to register a victory after breaking the German in the first game of the final set but Struff quickly broke back.
The Aussie was then just two points away from being knocked out before clawing his way back, with the match ending in a tiebreak, where the 24th seed's class shone through. The 22-year-old Aussie's valiant effort would have gained him even more fans, backing up a promising fourth-round berth at the US Open last year.
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