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Novak Djokovic pushed by Alexei Popyrin-Australian Open 2024

Australian Open win Novak Djokovic pushed by Popyrin

Novak Djokovic lost the second set of his Australian Open match to an unranked opponent for the second time in a row. This time, against Australian Alexei Popyrin, Djokovic was pushed to the limit in the third set. But the 24-time Grand Slam champion rallied, fending off four set points before winning the third set. And finishing with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory in just over three hours.

After the match, Djokovic stated that Popyrin was the “better player for a set and a half”. And that he is still searching for his form as he attempts a record-extending 11th victory in Melbourne.

Popyrin, 24, had more aces and winners than Djokovic but was undone by 26 more unforced errors than the world number one. During the fourth set, Djokovic challenged a heckler to “say that to my face”. At 2-2, Djokovic paused, strolled to the back of the court, and yelled at the crowd before winning the next three games. After securing the game on a Popyrin error, Djokovic turned back to the fans and roared, pumping his fist in celebration. Also read: Wimbledon Champion Marketa Vondrousova Has Withdrawn From The Adelaide International?

Djokovic has been struggling with a sore wrist and stated after his first match, a four-hour, four-set victory over 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic, that he isn’t feeling well. He commended Popyrin with devising a strategy to unsettle him.

“I haven’t been playing my best, but I’m still trying to find form,” the 36-year-old admitted. “Especially in the early rounds, you face players with nothing to lose. They appear on centre court to play their best tennis.”

Djokovic had a 13-1 record against Australian Grand Slam participants. But Popyrin used his serve and forehand to chip away at the Serbian star’s armour. The fans erupted as Djokovic faced a break point at 1-2 in the second set, which Popyrin converted with a brilliant volley. Also read: Australian Open 2024 Prize Money and Breakdown: How Much Money Will Each Player Get?

Popyrin, on the other hand, faltered while serving for the set at 5-3, allowing Djokovic to take the lead. However, in the following game, it was Djokovic’s time to wobble, and his increasingly ragged forehand provided a couple of set points. One was saved with an ace before Popyrin hit a brilliant lob to tie the match.

Popyrin needed treatment for his calf midway through the third set, but Djokovic also appeared flat. Serving at 4-5, the tension grew as Djokovic missed a forehand and an easy volley before slamming a forehand into the net, giving away three set points. Djokovic stood firm to save all three, and another when Popyrin eked out a fourth opportunity. Also read: Two-Time Champion Roberto Bautista Agut falls in Auckland

World No. 43 Popyrin was left to rue wasted opportunities as Djokovic dominated the tiebreak. And cruised to victory despite some boisterous supporters attempting to throw him off his game. Djokovic’s form will provide some hope for his third-round opponent, Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

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