Alexei Popyrin wins Singapore Tennis Open to earn maiden ATP title
Elated Australian says only winning a Grand Slam can top Singapore Open triumph
Wearing an expression of joyous disbelief after match-point, Alexei Popyrin said only a Grand Slam win could top the euphoria of his Singapore Tennis Open triumph.
The former No. 2-ranked junior won his first ATP Tour title and a US$24,770 (S$33,000) prize purse by coming from a set down to beat fourth seed and world No. 46 Alexander Bublik 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
Popyrin, 21, arrived in Singapore on the back of knocking out world No. 15 David Goffin in the first round of his home Grand Slam, the Australian Open, earlier this month.
He also upset 2014 US Open winner and three-time Grand Slam finalist Marin Cilic in the semi-finals in Singapore.
But his opponent in the final also had a promising start to the year, with Bublik having also made the final of the season-opening Antalya Open last month.
The 23-year-old Kazakh took the first set, but world No. 114 Popyrin rallied back in style serving up a bagel in the second set before taking that momentum into the decider to win in one hour and 24 minutes.
"I don't think it's a feeling that I'll ever feel again, to be honest. It was an unbelievable feeling, to win my first ATP title," said Popyrin, who won the junior French Open in 2017.
"Maybe I'll get the feeling (again) if I win my first Grand Slam but, hopefully, that'll happen."
The Australian, who is expected to soar to a career high of No. 82 when the latest rankings are released, admitted he knew he had lost the first set when he double-faulted at 3-2 down, calling it "probably the only sloppy game that I played in the whole match".
Popyrin dished out 11 aces and embarked on a run of seven straight service games to love, including the entire second set.
He said: "I was playing well in the first set and I just knew he's a little bit up and down mentally.
"And I knew that if I could get a quick start in the second set that I would probably win the second set, with the way I have been serving this week, the way I've been consolidating everything.
"And you know, that third set was a grind."
Before he was presented with the trophy, Popyrin admitted that he "was kind of scared when" Bublik won his semi-final, after watching the Kazakh "kill" his opponents in his first two matches.
Popyrin explained: "The reason I said I was a bit scared was because I knew if he was really on... I don't think anybody in the world can beat him. He's that talented. But I knew he was mentally up and down."
That "up and down" duality was personified by Bublik's graciousness in defeat on court and his tetchiness when fielding questions from the media.
He bristled when asked about his frustrated demeanour in the third set, calling it a "stupid question", adding: "I'm not going to translate what I was saying. What the hell is that question. Go to Google and try to understand what I was saying."
Yesterday's final, along with the semi-finals, was opened up to 250 fans - who tested negative for their antigen rapid tests before being allowed entry.
Also in attendance was Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who said: "The successful conclusion of the Singapore Tennis Open event marks a significant first step towards the resumption of more sporting events in Singapore."
He added that by next year, Singapore would have another venue to host top-class tennis action, with the Kallang Tennis Centre slated for completion by late 2022.