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Popyrin triumphs in three-hour battle against fellow Australian

31 December 2023, by Leigh Rogers

Alexei Popyrin has survived a spirited challenge from Aussie compatriot Chris O’Connell to make a winning start to his Brisbane International campaign.

The world No.40 needed three hours and five minutes to carve out a 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(4) victory at Pat Rafter Arena this afternoon.

“That’s a battle for the last match of the year,” a relieved Popyrin said.

“But what a battle it was. Oaks (O’Connell) played unbelievable and I had to really keep my level high to be able to win this match.

“If I didn’t keep my level, if I didn’t keep my focus, I would have lost this match easy. He played unbelievable and if he continues playing like this, he’ll do big things this summer for sure.”

Popyrin, who entered the clash with only a single win from his past 10 matches against an Australian opponent, was proud of his mental resolve under immense pressure.

“I had a lot of opportunities in the third set to be able to go up a break and he played some unbelievable points, served some unbelievable bombs,” the 23-year-old said.

“I kept my focus, kept positive and just came through in the tiebreak. That’s what we were working on this year a lot.”

Popyrin’s second-round opponent is yet to be decided. It will be either world No.17 Ben Shelton, the tournament’s third seed, or world No.39 Roman Safiullin.

> BUY NOW: Tickets for Brisbane International 2024

Shelton teamed with Frenchman Ugo Humbert to score a first-round doubles win today at the Queensland Tennis Centre, while Safiullin combined with compatriot Aslan Karatsev to eliminate the high-profile combination of Andy Murray and Holger Rune.

The men’s qualifying singles competition also concluded today, with former world No.3 Dominic Thiem among the players earning a main-draw spot.

Thiem’s opening-round opponent is 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.

> READ: Nadal opens up about future playing plans

Nadal made his competitive return in doubles this evening alongside coach Marc Lopez. However, wildcard pairing bowed out against Aussie duo Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson in two tight sets.