Alexei Popyrin has revealed the “brain fart” that restored his mojo after living up to his pre-tournament billing to be the revealed the “brain fart” through to the second round of the US Open.
Tipped for a deep run by former champion Lleyton Hewitt, Popyrin rode his big serve to a 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-3 victory over Radu Albot on day one at Flushing Meadows.
The 22-year-old crunched 13 aces, won 81% of points after landing his first delivery and faced just one break point in 20 service games.
Popyrin broke his Moldovan opponent four times.
Showcasing his slick all-round game, the former French Open junior champion also claimed 20 points at the net in advancing after two hours, 37 minutes.
After a series of early-round defeats, Popyrin said three wins last week had renewed his belief before the year’s final grand slam in New York.
Meanwhile, a shattered James Duckworth was unable to contain his frustration after blowing five match points in a crushing five-set first-round defeat at the US Open.
Duckworth followed fellow Australians John Millman and Astra Sharma out the exit gates after succumbing 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 6-2 to Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
Millman earlier slumped to a 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 loss to Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen on day one at Flushing Meadows, while Sharma bowed out 6-0 6-3 to eighth-seeded French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Millman’s early departure came three years after the Queenslander slayed five-times champion Roger Federer en route to the quarter-finals in New York.
But the veteran’s defeat, after entering the season’s final grand slam under a fitness cloud, was nothing on Duckworth’s gut-wrencher.
After hitting a career-high No.67 in the rankings last week, Duckworth was well on his way to continuing his watershed season before letting a huge opportunity slip.
The Sydneysider missed his first match point with Martinez serving at 5-6 in the third set, then couldn’t convert any of four more in the crucial tiebreaker.
He relinquished the fourth set in quick fashion to find himself fighting against the momentum.
Duckworth composed himself to gain an early break in the fifth only to concede six games straight to bow out after a tense and marathon affair stretching four hours 20 minutes.
“I had four match points last week and lost. Today I had five match points and lost. Pretty pissed off really,” Duckworth said, adding that he could barely push off his fatiguing legs to serve by the end of the match.
“I was pretty done physically. Couldn’t really do much from from a physical standpoint, which hurt me.”
Enjoying a breakout run to the Wimbledon third round last month, and also making round two at Roland Garros and Melbourne Park, Duckworth had been bidding to win matches at the four majors in the same year for the first time in his injury-plagued career.
There was also disappointment for Sharma, who was unable to extend her winning run from qualifying despite mounting a second-set fightback against Krejcikova.
After losing six of the first eight games, Sharma eventually submitted in one hour 14 minutes.
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