NextGen star Popyrin takes down "gentle giant" Eubanks to reach STO 2nd Rd
By Dillon Lim
In the first round of the Singapore Tennis Open, American Christopher Eubanks (ranked 240), faced Australia's Alexei Popyrin, (ranked 114) for a spot in the second round. Eubanks came through to the main draw from the qualifying draw after two convincing straight sets victories over Rohan Bopanna and Alessandro Bega. And Popyrin entered the main draw as a replacement for Canadian star, Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Both players held their serves with no trouble in the first few games of the opening set. Both tall and heavy hitters were winning cheap points off their serves. At 2-3, an easy forehand unforced error put the Australian in trouble on his serve to bring the score to 0-30. Popyrin then played a 1-2 punch combo followed by a big serve to level at 30-30. Eubanks hit a deep return and set up his first break point of the match. Popyrin served an ace to end a tricky service game where he saved two break points and faced some brilliant returns from the Eubanks.
In the next game, the American held a tight service game despite his opponent putting him to the test. Eubanks set up his 3rd break point opportunity on his opponents serve in the next game after he ripped a forehand return. But Popyrin showed no signs of panic as he saved it with a backhand volley winner after being out of position during the rally. He followed up with an ace and a forehand winner and the score is at 4-4 after 32 minutes of play. After another service hold and fighting hard, the American got his first set point, but Popyrin got lucky after his slice hit the net cord and went past an approaching Eubanks. The Australian hit a solid unreturned serve to level things at 5-5.
Both players held their serves fairly easily and a tiebreak was needed to decide the first set. The American hit another deep return to get the first mini break at 3-2. Popyrin hung in the rally and a forehand unforced error gave him the mini break back. The Australian showed some nerves of steel and hit a beautiful drop shot before a hit serve, set him up with his first set point. In just slightly more than 55 minutes, Popyrin hit a running forehand crosscourt passing shot to take the first set 7-6(5).
The first two games of the 2nd set saw both players hold comfortably, but in the third game, Eubanks set himself up with two break point chances. However, he failed to convert both. This put him at 0/7 break points converted. On the third break point of the game, Popyrin served his 10th ace. And after two more deuces, the Australian hit an unreturned serve to lead 2-1.
Both players went on to hold their serves rapidly. At 4-4, 0-30 on the Popyrin serve, Eubanks hit a smooth backhand down the line winner to give himself 3 break points. After 10 failed break points chances, Eubanks finally broke and will serve for the 2nd set at 5-4. The American did not rise to the occasion and Popyrin showed some resilience by setting up his first two break points on the Eubanks serve of the whole match. The Australian broke back immediately from an unforced error by his opponent and roared “Come On!”. He backed up this break with a quick love game service hold to lead 6-5.
The American then held his serve to stay in the match and take the second set to a tiebreak. Popyrin hit a stunning forehand return at 2-0 in the tiebreak before firing his 15th ace to lead 4-0 in the tiebreak. A superb first serve at 5-2 gave the young Australian 4 match points. Popyrin missed the line narrowly twice and Eubanks climbed back into the tiebreak. However, on his 4th match point, the Australian played a brilliant point and finished the match with a forehand crosscourt winner to win 7-6(5), 7-6(5).
Popyrin will face Bulgarian wildcard Adrian Andreev in the round of 16 after the latter took out 7th seed, Lloyd Harris in 3 sets earlier today, for a spot in the last 8.
(Edited by Raj Kumar)
Dillon Lim is in his final year of university. He enjoys playing tennis and has been in love with the game since he was a kid. The 23 year old used to play competitively for Raffles Institution and was in the junior national training squad before leaving to study in the UK. And he still plays for his current university. Off the court, Dillon enjoys watching tennis matches and always keeps up with the very latest tournaments.
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