Aussie Young Gun Says He's Got The Game To Beat The Best In Tennis
Alexei Popyrin hopes to return as a bona fide title contender after his head-turning Wimbledon run finally came to an end at the hands of world No.11 Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev needed four high-quality sets to eliminate the Australian teenager 6-7 (6-8) 6-1 6-4 6-3 6-4 in the second round on Wednesday.
Popyrin was making his main-draw debut after powering through three qualifying matches and then beating former US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in the opening round.
He showed true grit to take the first set in a tight tiebreaker before Medvedev's class and experience told as the Russian prevailed after two hours and 31 minutes.
While disappointed to have bowed out, Popyrin departed the All England Club heartened by his breakthrough.
"It's very encouraging. Every experience, every time I get to play a top-10 player I always feel like I'm in the match," he said.
"I never feel like I'm being blown away ... I always feel like I've got the game to compete with these guys -- and beat them.
"If you go into the match expecting to lose, then what's the point of going in? So that's the mentality I have and that's what I try to bring on court."
The 19-year-old's great run has at least secured him in a direct entry to next month's US Open, with Popyrin projected to rise to No.88 in the world.
He will be one of only three teenagers in the top 100 behind Canadian prodigy Felix Auger-Aliassime (18) and Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic (19).
"It's what we strive for, what we improve for, what we work for, just getting that ranking better every time and just keep chipping away at the rankings, trying to get to that No.1 spot. Hopefully I can do it," Popyrin said.
"That's always been the goal, coming into every grand slam as a genuine title contender.
"But there's still a lot of work to do until then. I'm still 19 and still outside the top 90 right now."
Popyrin two years ago became the first Australian to win the French Open junior crown in almost 50 years, joining John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Phil Dent on the honour roll.
But his run on grass in London, and victory over two-time Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem on the way to the third round of the Australian Open, confirms the Sydney-born, Spain-raised talent as a genuine all-court player.
Popyrin's brother Anthony has also been earmarked for a bright future.
"He's in college in America. He's an unbelievable hitter of the ball. He can rally with the best of the guys here," Popyrin said.
"But, for him, it just comes with the matches. He has a tough time playing those matches.
"But he is very talented when he hits the ball."