Korda Keeps Nerve To See Off Popyrin In Astana

Lehecka, Mannarino reach QFs at ATP 250

Sebastian Korda pulled through a tense final set against Alexei Popyrin on Friday to make a winning start at the Astana Open.

The American prevailed 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 in a first-round clash of fine margins at the Kazakhstani ATP 250 event. Korda had led 4-2 in the deciding set of the pair’s maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting before Popyrin rallied to 4-4 to set up a tense climax. It was the fifth-seeded Korda who found a second break of his Australian opponent’s serve in the 11th game, however, setting him up for a two-hour, 54-minute triumph.

The win extended Korda’s solid form on hard courts in 2023. The 23-year-old American has earned 15 of his 19 tour-level wins on the surface, a tally that includes a championship-match run in Adelaide, semi-final appearances in Winston-Salem and Zhuhai, and a quarter-final run at the Australian Open.

Korda will meet Nuno Borges in the second round as he chases a quarter-final spot on event debut in Astana. The World No. 28 is chasing his second ATP Tour title and his first since lifting a trophy on clay in Parma in 2021.

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Also on Friday, Korda’s fellow seeds Jiri Lehecka and Adrian Mannarino booked their places in the last eight in Kazakhstan.

Fourth seed Lehecka downed qualifier Egor Gerasimov 6-2, 7-6(3) to reach his sixth tour-level quarter-final of the season. The Czech saved two set points in the 12th game of the second set before dominating the tie-break to wrap an 86-minute win. He will next face #NextGenATP Serbian Hamad Medjedovic, who downed Alexander Shevchenko 6-4, 6-4 to reach his second ATP Tour quarter-final.

Mannarino beat another qualifier, Alibek Kachmazov, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. The sixth-seeded Frenchman, who reached the final in Astana in 2020, set a last-eight clash with Austrian Jurij Rodionov.

The 24-year-old Rodionov, who advanced through qualifying, upset second seed Sebastian Baez 6-2, 6-4. Rodionov won 61 per cent of his second-serve points, compared to the Argentine's 42 per cent, to reach his second tour-level quarter-final and first since June 2021 (Stuttgart).

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