Australian Alexei Popyrin is celebrating the “unbelievable feeling” of winning his first ATP tour title after coming from a set down to beat world No.46 Alexander Bublik in the Singapore Open final.
The 21-year-old Sydney prospect Popyrin, who’s made a remarkable start to 2021, scored a stunning 4-6 6-0 6-2 triumph over the talented but unpredictable Kazakh in just under 85 minutes on Sunday to earn his breakthrough triumph.
The victory will rocket Popyrin up 22 places to world No.82, a career high, when the new rankings are released next week and he hopes it will set him up for a huge year.
“It feels unbelievable after a lot of sacrifice, of dedication and hard work, winning this for myself and my team and my entire family. I’ve done it for everybody,” said a thrilled Popyrin.
“I feel like on that match point when things were done, I don’t think it’s a feeling I’ll ever feel again to be honest.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to win my first ATP title – and maybe I’ll get the feeling if I win my first grand slam. Hopefully, that will happen!”
Popyrin had already had a fine start to the year, having saved four match points to beat 13th seed David Goffin in an epic five-setter at the Australian Open.
But the sensation of lifting his maiden title, he reckoned, was very different, as if it were a reward “for all the hard work that I put into pre-season.”
Popyrin had to win it the hard way, after being broken in the fifth game of the final and then seeing his long forehand gift Bublik, who was also seeking his first ATP title, the opening set at the second time of asking.
But Popyrin won all 12 points on serve in the second set and broke the inconsistent 23-year-old Bublik three times to take it 6-0 in just 20 minutes.
Popyrin admitted he’d been a bit “scared” of what Bublik, who was also looking for his first title, could do on the hard court.
“I don’t think anybody in the world can beat him (Bublik) when he’s on, he’s that talented – but I knew he was mentally a little bit like up-and-down,” said Popyrin.
So it was that in the final set that the Australian called a “grind”, he was able to repeat what he had done in their only previous meeting on the Challenger Tour in 2018 in Astana when he also rallied from a set down to win in three sets.
On serve but down 3-2 in the deciding set, Bublik cracked, double-faulting twice to give Popyrin the crucial break.
The Kazakh then handed the title to Popyrin minutes later after his serve failed him again, double faulting again as he was broken for the fifth time in the match to lose it 6-2.
“Alexei played enormous tennis today. He hit all the lines, he hit all the serves and all the returns. He was the better player today,” conceded Bublik.
Earlier in the day, Aussies Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith were beaten in the doubles decider by Belgian top seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-2 6-3.