Teen sensation Alexei Popyrin has shown he’s no one-hit wonder after an epic Australian Open third round match with Frenchman Lucas Pouille.
Popyrin was the last local male to exit the singles, following Alex Bolt, but went out with a bang at Melbourne Park.
The 19-year-old wildcard lit up Margaret Court Arena on Saturday night when he trailed by two sets and 0-4 in the third set tie-break but saved a match point and then pushed the clash to five sets.
Popyrin eventually fell just short 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 6-7 (12-10) 4-6 6-3 with the match lasting almost four hours and finishing after midnight.
It was his first time playing five sets in a tournament but he showed he’s more than ready for the big time.
It came after he defeated an admittedly ailing world No. 8 Dominic Thiem for a place in the last 32.
Popyrin said while he’s disappointed he didn’t get the win, he is excited by his performance in just his second major.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t get it done and that’s going to sting a little bit,” Popyrin said.
“I didn’t win the match but I’m happy with the way the week has gone and happy with the way I played. I didn’t surprise myself — I felt pretty comfortable out there.”
Pouille likened the raucous home fans to a Davis Cup tie. “I have never played against Australia in the Davis Cup and now I know how it feels,” he said after the match.
“The last time I was on this court I lost so I can tell you that two sets in I was thinking about this but I am just very happy.
“He is a great player, he has a bright future and I am just very happy to have got through this one.”
In a fearless display against the 28th seed, Popyrin, ranked world No. 149, hit 63 winners while Pouille also nailed 64 in a high quality encounter.
At 9-9 in the third-set tie-break, Popyrin belted a forehand passing shot down the sideline that Rafael Nadal would have been proud of.
Pouille, who hadn’t won an Australian Open match in five visits to Melbourne, next takes on Croatian 11th seed Borna Coric.
Popyrin marked himself as a future star of Australian tennis, alongside fellow teen Alex de Minaur, with his tournament showing.
With the drama surrounding Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios, who both made first-round exits, the young pair put fans on notice that a changing of the guard is afoot.