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Alexei Popyrin claims milestone Monte Carlo win after serving blow to defending champion

Alexei Popyrin became the first Australian to secure a spot in the round of 16 stage at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 20 years after knocking out defending champion Andrey Rublev. 

The world No.6 from Russia uncharacteristically had no response to the Australian’s varied approach, labouring to a 6-4 6-4 defeat – his third from four since being disqualified in the Dubai semi-final in early March.

Ironically, Popyrin will be joined by compatriot Alex de Minaur in the next round after the Australian No.1 booked his ticket by rallying from a set deficit against Tallon Griekspoor to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

“I enjoyed coming out on centre court for the first time – first tournament on clay of the year and I have good memories from clay last year,” said Popyrin, who claimed his second career ATP title in Umag last year.

“I am feeling really comfortable on it and happy to beat a guy who was in form, confident and the defending champ. It was an awesome match.”

Clay was Popyrin’s favoured surface throughout 2023 – the surface on which he pencilled a 65% win percentage, compared to 44% and 25% for hard and grass respectively, according to Ultimate Tennis Statistics.

“I love clay,” added Popyrin after signing the camera with the words Aussie on clay followed by a winking face.

“I think that the experience before with some of the Aussies is probably not the best on clay, but hopefully we can turn that tide around. It’s a great feeling [to be in the last 16].”

Variety was the key to success for the world No.46, who claimed his sixth career win against a top-10 opponent and levelled his head-to-head with Rublev at 1-1.

Popyrin struck 25 winners and boasted supreme confidence at the net, winning 12 from 17 when at the forecourt.

“The idea was not to give him the same ball,” Popyrin added.

“He is probably the best player from the baseline when you give him rhythm, so I tried to change the pace, height and spin and I think it worked really well for me today.”

Jerome Coombe, Tennishead Writer, discovered his love for tennis journalism whilst studying languages and playing competitive tennis. He has a vast knowledge of tennis and strives to shed a light on all corners of the sport.