Popyrin Beats Sinner To Earn Nadal Clash In Madrid
Alexei Popyrin passed a tough test on Wednesday, defeating Miami finalist Jannik Sinner 7-6(5), 6-2 to reach the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open. Now an even tougher challenge awaits: five-time champion Rafael Nadal.
“I think it was to stay level-headed after I got broken in the first game. We had a tactic that I tried to implement in the first game. I couldn't quite get my aim. But I knew I would have chances, like most do. I just had to capitalise on them when they came,” Popyrin said. “That's what I did, I guess… I have had a pretty good record in tie-breaks this year. I felt confident going into the tie-break. I just tried to stay level-headed.”
The Aussie advanced to the Round of 16 at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time to earn his first shot at the legendary Spaniard. This will be just his second match against a member of the Big Three — Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer — after losing against Djokovic in Tokyo two years ago.
For the first 45 minutes of his clash against Sinner, it appeared the 22-year-old would not get that chance. Sinner, who is at a career-high No. 18 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, served for the first set and seemed comfortable in rallies.
But the Italian made an unforced error to allow Popyrin back on serve, and from there the tone of the match shifted. Although Sinner took the early lead in the first-set tie-break, Popyrin often found himself on the front foot in key moments, using his powerful game to keep the 19-year-old from taking control.
Popyrin, a qualifier in Madrid, will have to do the same against Nadal with a quarter-final spot on the line. The 21-year-old, who lifted his first ATP Tour trophy earlier this year in Singapore, is 1-6 against Top 10 opponents. He advanced past Dominic Thiem in the second round at the 2019 Australian Open.
Did You Know?
Coming into this year, Popyrin had a 17-14 tie-break record. The Aussie is now 18-5 in tie-breaks this season to lead the ATP Tour in tie-breaks won.