Alex Popyrin’s rise in his tennis career over the past few years has been nothing short of mind-blowing. In 2019, Popyrin stunned the tennis world to shock one of the favourites to win the tournament, then world number 7 Dominic Thiem. In an enthralling 2nd round shootout, Popyrin defeated an injured and brave Thiem in 3 sets at the 2019 Australian Open. Four years and a pandemic later, Popyrin did the exact same thing- stunning world number 8 Taylor Fritz in the 2nd round of this year’s Australian Open. In between these 2 results is an even more stunning story: Popyrin won his first ever title in an event which was initially never supposed to happen.
The Singapore Open was added to the tour in 2021 to add more tournaments to the schedule because of the impact of the pandemic on scheduling. That week Popyrin stormed home to the title and collect a trophy that wasn’t even supposed to exist- but a win is a win. Popyrin capped off a sensational tournament, defeating Alexander Bublik en route to the title. That week, he collected a cool 250 points and earnt a new career high ranking of 82 in the world. Incredibly, his previous best was 87 in the world- which he attained almost 2 years prior in July 2019.
Now Popyrin has a chance to add even more to the story of his career. This week in Cincinnati, Popyrin wasn’t supposed to be in the main draw. It’s quite interesting how Popyrin’s biggest successes in his career have all come in the face of adversity- almost to the point of never even occurring in the first place. This week has been no different. At11am on Tuesday, Popyrin was sitting on the couch in the players’ lounge at he Lindner Family Tennis Centre. Minutes later, he was on the phone with an ATP Tour manager, who requested he be ready to be on court in 5 minutes. This is what Popyrin had to say about the events.
"“I was on the couch, literally switched on the PS5 to play FIFA with my physio, because we have a lot of FIFA battles”.“I got the call from the ATP Tour managers telling me that I have to be on court in five minutes. And I had just come into the centre literally 10 minutes before that.”"
Following this change of plan, Popyrin now occupied Karen Khachanov’s spot in the draw. The first lucky loser, Daniel Altmaier, had already replaced Andy Murray. Altmaier, lucky loser 1, was drawn against Popyrin, lucky loser 2. Popyrin defeated Altmaier in round 1 and was then given a walkover against Jarry. Following that, he then had the relatively smooth task of beating Ruusuvuori for a spot in a Masters QF. With Zverev and Djokovic on the other side of the draw, Popyrin can only dare to dream. He will be hoping that another Aussie, Max Purcell, can upset a shaky Carlos Alcaraz this week in Cincinnati. The result would set up a mouth watering all-Australian Masters 1000 semi-final, the first of it’s kind in a number of years.
It’s a spectacular story. Alexei Popyrin has now risen 18 spots to a career high ranking of world number 40 after a series of lucky events. A win against Hurkacz would teleport Popyrin to 33rd in the world- just about seeding Popyrin for the US Open later this month. It’s a fantastic story, and tennis is better for it.