Alexey Bobyrin rode a stellar serve performance and swelled the crowd’s support to clinch another upset at the 2023 Australian Open. On Thursday at John Kane Arena, the Australian card went 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-4 , 6-7(6), 6-2 over eighth seed Taylor Fritz to continue with the win. The trend of eye-catching results in the first rounds Down Under.
“This is the dream for me, and I don’t want to wake up at all,” he said in an emotional court interview. Just before that, he addressed the crowd chanting his name: “You guys were amazing. Oh my God, this is crazy. I couldn’t do this without you guys. This win means a lot to me.”
JCA stands for salute @tweet! view! the parties!
– #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 19, 2023
Popyrin faced just two break points in the match – and didn’t face any until the fourth set – as he outlasted Fritz in a match by thin margins. After dropping a match point in the fourth set tiebreak, the Australian stared at a break point as he worked to open the fifth. But he erased it with a header, one of his 19 in the match, before taking a 4-1 lead.
He rallied through the end with his fourth break of the match, ripping an inside-out forehand on his second match point to seal the deal after just over four hours of play. It was his second in a row from five sets, with his first victory over Chun Hsien Tsing in four hours and 26 minutes.
Just how hot is Popperin on his serve against Fritz? The 23-year-old won all 20 of his serve points in the third set and finished with an 87 percent win rate on his first serve. But there was more to this match than aces and winners.
Despite strong serving numbers from both men, there was no shortage of dramatic rallies as competitors nailed their movement and touch as well as ample power. Popyrin’s success in key exchanges helped him pull away in the final set as he trusted his ground game to reach the third round in Melbourne for the third time, equaling his best Grand Slam result.
The top ten finisher is fourth overall for an Aussie and second in a major, following his 2019 AO victory over Dominic Thiem in the second round.
After a tough 2022 season in which he recorded just five wins at tour level, the world number 113 has already racked up four such wins this year.
“I had the most difficult year last year. This year I won more matches than I did in the whole of last year,” he said. “Before the season I put my head down, I worked as hard as I could. I don’t want that feeling I had last year again. I’m going to keep working, I’m going to keep pressing, I’m going to try to keep going all the way.” I love that feeling, and I want more of that feeling.”
With nearly eight and a half hours on the court over two matches, Popyrin will now begin his recovery ahead of his thrilling third-round clash with 20-year-old American Ben Shelton. The former NCAA singles champion moved ahead with a 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 7-5 win against Nicholas Jarry earlier on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Michael Moh upset 12th seed Alexander Zverev 6-7(1), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round in a Grand Slam for the first time.
The American, who is the fifth lucky loser in history to reach the third round in Melbourne, played solidly throughout the three-hour, 28-minute match, shooting 42 winners for his second top-20 victory.
World number 107 will play JJ Wolf after American 23rd seed Diego Schwartzman won 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 44 minutes.
Zverev was competing in only his second tour-level event since tore a collateral ligament in his right foot during his semi-final match at Roland Garros against Rafael Nadal in June.