Popyrin on cusp of top 100 with French win

Alexei Popyrin's impressive French Open first round victory over local hopeful Ugo Humbert has the Australian ace on track to crack the world's top 100.

ALEXEI POPYRIN of Australia plays a forehand shot during the Sydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre in Sydney, Australia.
ALEXEI POPYRIN of Australia plays a forehand shot during the Sydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Alexei Popyrin might have to start plotting some new goals after the teenager's impressive win on French Open debut thrust him closer to the world's top 100.

Ranked 109, the wildcard responded brilliantly in a comeback 3-6 6-3 7-6 (12-10) 6-3 defeat of 20-year-old local Ugo Humbert to give Australia the perfect start in Paris on Sunday.

It was standing room only on court 14 as Popyrin defied a vocal crowd and the world No.61 with tremendous poise and fearless serving.

Popyrin became the first Australian since 1968 - and only the fifth behind Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Phil Dent - to win the junior event at Roland Garros two years ago.

Humbert controlled the first set but Popyrin eventually found that winning rhythm, serving magnificently in big moments to finish with 12 aces and 38 winners.

Collecting $140,783 for the win, the 19-year-old will play either 31st seed Laslo Djere or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round.

The win means he is every chance of cracking into double figures after bursting onto the scene with a third-round appearance at the Australian Open.

That achievement would allow Popyrin automatic entry into majors and the potential for bigger dollars and ranking points.

In doing so he would follow the path of countryman Alex de Minaur, who like Popyrin is based in Spain and has surged to world No.24 at the age of 20 this year.

"I just feel more and more comfortable playing on this level," Popyrin said.

"I'm looking to break the top 100 sometime soon and then I will set another goal.

"But I haven't looked past the second round; I know I've got Laslo Djere or Ramos-Vinolas, but I have no clue who I have in the third round."

It could be Japan's seventh seed Kei Nishikori, but the teenager's big game and notable composure under pressure means he'll be up for the task.

"On tough points, I have always tried to keep a cool head, and I've always managed to do that," he said.

"That's something that's really helped me a lot, and I hope it will stay."


AAP