Popyrin gains vital match practice in Fritz loss

AUSSIE Alexei Popyrin had some additional match practice in against world number nine Taylor Fritz at the Kooyong Classic on Thursday.

The 6-7 1-6 loss to the American is his seventh match of 2022, after he qualified and reached the quarterfinals of the Adelaide International last week before going down in a close bout against TThanasi Kokkinakis earlier this week.

Popyrin, who had an injury interrupted 2022 which saw him fall outside the Top 100 and not directly qualify for the Australian Open, is glad he has so much tennis under his belt. The Australian Open wildcard who has been as high as 59 in the world, said he is feeling fresh heading into his home Slam.

Both players got a break up in the first set but neither was able to consolidate it, with Fritz getting up in the tiebreaker as both power players entertained the crowd. Fritz worked hard in the first game of the second set to break Popyrin and then ran away with it from there.

“It was a big fall from grace,” Popyrin said of 2022.

“But I’ve learnt from my mistakes, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons last year, but I don’t want to look too much on last year, this year’s a new year I’ve started off pretty well, lots of good matches, had some good wins already, and I’m just trying to play a good level and keep that level and focus and who knows where I’ll end up.”

Fritz also has plenty of matches under his belt after his country won the United Cup last week, and he recorded wins over three top-15 players including Matteo Berrettini in the final.

The big server achieved his 2022 goals of reaching the Top 10, having a big result at a grand slam – quarterfinals at Wimbledon – and reaching the ATP Finals.

“First I want to be top five ranking wise and result wise I want a big result at a grand slam, that’s what’s missing right now, I want to at least see myself in the final of a grand slam and give my chance to play for a title but definitely just get to a final,” he said. “A big result is a final – at least a semi I want to see.”

When asked if he could get to that level in Melbourne, he said: “Yeah. Absolutely, the level is definitely there, the question is going to be if the level is sustainable over five sets…I’m ready to make that jump but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, that’s what I did at US Open.

“I genuinely believed I had a good chance of winning the US Open and I went out in the first round so you have to take it one match at a time and that’s what I plan on doing but I think the level is there to make it deep.”

The pair are slated to face each other in the second round of the Australian Open if they each progress: Fritz has Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili and Popyrin has Chun-Hsin Tseng.


Alex de Minaur was up next against Sir Andy Murray, the Aussie getting good conditioning in against the former world number one, covering the court well throughout plenty of long rallies during the match.

Murray looked visibly frustrated several times throughout the match, played through the hottest part of the day as de Minaur’s fight, matched by Murray, made it arguably the highest intensity match played in the event.

De Minaur, however, looked unphased by the conditions, pouncing on Murray lapses and playing much of the match on his terms even if he was behind on the scoreboard. The 6-3 6-3 scoreline to Murray could easily have been flipped with plenty of games going to deuce and the overall match time reaching 1:58. He appears primed for an assault at his home Slam, which starts with a clash against a qualifier.

Czech Republic 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova was too good in the third match, beating Harriet Dart 6-7, 6-3, 10-4. Fruhvirtova was plucky in the first set, twice going down a break before forcing a tie-breaker and she went up an early break in the second, before prevailing in the match tiebreaker.

It is Fruhvirtova’s second match at Kooyong after taking on Donna Vekic on day one ahead of a first round clash with Aussie Jaimee Fourlis at the major.

Aussie Jordan Thompson finished off the annual showpiece against Brandon Nakashima, the American prevailing 6-4 6-2. Nakashima got a break at 2-2 in the first set after a Thompson foot fault, before the Aussie was twice again broken in the second set. Nakashima was a class above the late Aussie inclusion, Thompson’s unforced errors and inconsistency killing him.

The world number 85 faces American J.J. Wolf in the first round of the Australian Open; the pair have never met.

“He’s a good player, he plays big, plays on the edge, very athletic, he goes after it so I’m going to have to be sharp,” Thompson said of Wolf post-match. “I’m a little bit sore, I was struggling in the second set but hopefully I’ll be good to go. “I love the heat, it doesn’t really affect me too much but I would definitely rather play in hot conditions than cold.”

The Australian Open begins on Monday 16 January.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments