Australian Open 2023 | Men’s singles draw opens up as seeds fall, Alexei Popyrin comments

Tennis great Tood Woodbridge says the draw is wide open for Alexei Popyrin to make “a deep run” after the first week of the Australian Open became a blood bath for the top seeds.

Popyrin broke through for the biggest win of his career on Thursday, knocking off American world No.9 Taylor Fritz in an epic five setter that led to an emotional on court interview.

“I love this feeling, and I want more of this feeling, and I want you guys to have this feeling more. Man I love you guys so much, thank you,” Popyrin said, fighting tears.

LIVE UPDATES: Australian Open day six

READ MORE: Seething Djokovic explodes in nuclear AO interview

READ MORE: Coach’s sneaky ploy caught on camera

And according to Woodbridge he has a huge opportunity to feel the same euphoria several more times over the coming days, with second seed Casper Ruud, 12th seed Alexander Zverev, 13th seed Matteo Berrettini, 23rd seed Diego Schwartzman and 26th seed Miomir Kecmanovic all eliminated from Popyrin’s quarters of the draw alongside Fritz.

The Aussie 23-year-old will not face a seeded opponent until the quarter-final stage at the earliest, should he continue to progress, putting him in an excellent position to capitalize on his career-altering win over Fritz.

”This is a huge moment in the career of Alexei and I tell you what, that win opens up the draw now for Alexei to do really something special, he can go deep now,” Woodbridge told Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve.

The legendary doubles player said Popyrin had come through a “tough” 12 months when he had struggled for results and a positive mindset and was no bearing the fruit of a turnaround triggered by new coach Xavier Malisse.

Woodbridge said that prior to Malisse’s involvement Popyrin had been more of a hitter than a tennis player, struggling to develop a game plan that would be competitive against top players.

Popyrin’s incredibly raw post-win chat

“Last year was tough and he’s turned that around with hard work, he had to change his attitude, his attitude wasn’t really great the last 12 months, there was a little bit of the ‘why me’ and with some help from Xavier Malisse he’s been able to get positive again,” Woodbridge said.

” … What Xavier seems to have done is connected the thinking with the actual playing, and practically using his weapons well. And he’s a developing player, it’s going to take him longer than Alex [de Minaur] to get there, he’s tall, he’s got a big serve and a forehand, doesn’t move quite as well as Alex does.

“I shouldn’t compare them but that’s what we’ve got to be aware of and recognize, that we’ve got two very different sized people that are in different phases.”

Woodbridge was then asked to predict how far up the rankings Popyrin could progress if he continued to improve in 2022.

Todd Woodbridge defends 4am Aus Open finish: The Morning Serve Day 6

While not wanting to put too much pressure on the big serving Sydneysider, Woodbridge said top 20 was realistic and top 10 was eventually achievable.

”Alexei’s younger [than Thanasi Kokkinakis] and he can see now what’s possible,” Woodbridge said.

“You beat Taylor Fritz, he’s been in the top 10, he’s a Wimbledon quarter-finalist … can he get to 50? Yes. Can he get to 10? That’s going to take a lot of work. Can he get to 20? Yes, he certainly can get to 20, so I think it’s going to take him longer [than de Minaur] but he’s taken the next step to now doing that.”

For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!

Leave a Comment