Popy’s breakthrough: Rising Aussie star’s epic maiden title
Alexei Popyrin has come from a set down to claim his maiden ATP Tour title and confirm his status as one of the rising stars of Australian tennis.
Contesting his first final at this level, the 21-year-old brushed off dropping just his second set of the week to defeat Kazakh Alexander Bublik 4-6 6-0 6-2 in the Singapore Tennis Open decider.
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Popyrin will rise to a career-high ranking of No.82, after beating Chris Eubanks, fellow young gun Adrian Andreev, countryman Matt Ebden and 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic to make the final.
"I'll definitely have very fond memories of Singapore now - I'll remember this for the rest of my life," Popyrin said on court afterwards.
"We put a lot of hard work in in the pre-season and it's paying off at the start of the year. In Australia, I felt really good playing there also. It's great to see all the hard work paying off.
"Also, my family behind the scenes; they've sacrificed so much for me.
"To finally win a tournament shows how much hard work they put in with me also - and this is for them, 100 per cent."
The Sydneysider produced an extraordinary serving performance - blemished by just one loose game that cost him the opening set - and at one stage strung together 29 straight service points.
Popyrin gave up only six points on serve for the entire contest, four of which came in the fifth game of the night, and blasted 11 aces past Bublik.
However, it was his returning that turned the match on its head, beginning with two returns that clipped the baseline in Bublik's opening service game of the second set.
Popyrin capitalised on an errant Bublik drop shot to go 2-0 ahead and he never looked back, destroying his rival with a flurry of winners as his expansive game came alive.
Bublik's resistance faded late in the second set, including delivering a series of tame first serves, but he steadied to hold his first two service games in the deciding set.
He was unable to do so again in the sixth game.
Bublik's 217km/h second serve staved off one of four break points, but he tried it again the next time and double-faulted to concede.
Popyrin didn't falter down the stretch, and Bublik's fifth double fault sealed victory.
Like fellow Australian Alex de Minaur, Popyrin spent his formative years in Spanish city Alicante and is beginning to realise the vast potential he showed as an outstanding junior.
He is a product of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy and has reached the last 32 twice at the Australian Open.
Originally published as Popy's breakthrough: Rising Aussie tennis star's epic maiden title