Australian Open: Alexei Popyrin makes his mark with upset over Tsonga_1


Australia's Alexei Popyrin says it was "painful" to watch his childhood hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga being forced to retire against him in the Australian Open first round.

Tsonga, the 28th seed, withdrew from the match injured on Tuesday night when he was trailing the 20-year-old Australian 6-7 (7-5) 6-2 6-1.

Popyrin, ranked 96th in the world, had a strong run in last year's Australian Open, beating two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem en route to the third round.

In his post-match interview, Popyrin was flat, saying he did not like to see Tsonga in pain.
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The Sydneysider had mixed feelings after the match, recalling how he fondly watched Tsonga's extraordinary run to the 2008 decider at Melbourne Park.

"I've never felt this way after a match," he told Channel Nine.

"Seeing him make the final here, I remember him jumping around like a crazy kid.

"So seeing him hurt, seeing him in pain, having to retire for this match was just painful.

"He's amazing. Everything about his game, you know, big serve, big forehand and his attitude on court."

Despite only just sitting inside the top 100, Popyrin has been a consistent early performer in grand slams, last year winning at least one match in all four majors.

While many of his contemporaries choose to build up rankings points on the secondary tour, Popyrin has consistently battled away to get into the best tournaments, finishing 2019 with the most number of wins through qualifying (11) to get into the top tier events.

Popyrin will play the winner of the Hugo Gaston-Jaume Munar match in the second round.

Earlier, Australia's John Millman had a four-set win against Ugo Humbert, but told the Nine network it took a toll.

"The five-set matches are long and a guy like that it is tough to keep him out for three consecutive sets," Millman said.

"He lifted a little and I thought I was losing momentum early in service games and he is a good frontrunner. I had to regroup and turn things around and I managed to do so."

Australia's Nick Kyrgios is now on court against Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

"Sonego is a tough competitor," Kyrgios told AAP before the game.

"I played him in Cincinnati last year. It was a tough match. Very capable player. Big serve. Loves to hit his forehand."

 -with AAP