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Alexei Popyrin saved four match points to down world No.15 David Goffin while Christopher O’Connell won two tiebreakers to defeat 13th seed Jan Lennard-Struff.

Alexei Popyrin saved four match points to down world No.15 David Goffin while Christopher O’Connell won two tiebreakers to defeat 13th seed Jan Lennard-Struff. 

With seven Australians advancing into the second round of the Australian Open, it was a great day for Australian tennis!

The highlight of the day came as two giant slayers Alexei Popyrin and Christopher O’Connell downed David Goffin and Jan Lennard-Struff to advance to the second round of the grand slam. 

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21-year-old Sydneysider Popyrin saved four match points to defeat world No.15, David Goffin, to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 6-3. 

And the young Australian showed grit to fight back from going a set down, to fend off advances from the Belgian who had a chance to win the match in the fourth set. 

“I was like, I was nearly on the brink of losing. When you come back from match points it gives you confidence for the upcoming rounds,” Popyrin said after the match.

And if you thought saving four match points was outrageous, it’s not the first time Popyrin has achieved a clutch win this summer! Last week he saved six match points to turn the momentum and beat Croatian Borna Gojo to advance to the second round of the Murray River Open. 

“It was mental as well, going down a break in that fourth set, I thought it was over. I managed to dig deep and came out on top,” the Australian said. 

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In a nail-biting match, with both players trading sets early on, Goffin took the lead at two sets to one after a gripping tiebreaker that saw the former world No.7 break Popyrin four times on his own serve. 

What followed was a mammoth fourth set decider that saw Popyrin go on the offensive early, forcing his Goffin to save four breakpoints early in the set. But the Belgian fought back to go 4-3 up, capitalising on a few unforced errors from Popyrin. 

Goffin advanced again and had two chances to win the match. But Popyrin dug deep to save both chances and was spurred on by the booming Aussie crowd behind him, to challenge for a set point of his own. 

But the Belgian stalled the Australian’s attack and forced a second tiebreak that saw him squander two more match point chances. Popyrin defended well and full of confidence, struck back to break the Belgian’s serve again to win the tiebreak. 

The Australian, who is ranked at 113 in the world, rode that momentum into the deciding fifth set, where he emphatically broke the Belgian three times to win the match and advance to the next round of the Australian Open.

That was number one by far,” he reflected on the rollercoaster match.

Christian O’Connell Defeats Jan Lennard-Struff

Just three years ago 26-year-old Christian O’Connell was earning a living cleaning boats on a marina in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, after taking some time away from tennis to recover from a serious knee injury. 

Returning to tennis in 2018, O’Connell has worked hard to climb back up the rankings and secure a spot at this year’s Australian Open. 

And today he reaped the rewards of his labour after he demolished former world No.29 Jan Lennard-Struff in straight sets 7-6(2) 7-6(5) 6-1. 

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He will now advance to the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career. 

The more I play these type of events, the better I feel out there, the more confident and calm I feel out there because it’s a different environment, different atmosphere,” the 26-year-old said.

Holding out to an early attack from his German opponent, O’Connell smashed six consecutive points past Struff to win the opening set. 

But Struff slowly fought his way back into the game and had a chance to draw level with the Aussie at 4-5, but O’Connell fended off his attack well and saved a vital breakpoint taking the second set to another tiebreak. 

This time, under a little more pressure, O’Connell outlasted his opponent, who saved three set points before relenting to a brilliant return from the Australian. 

Bounding with confidence, O’Connell smashed his way past the German in the final set to break his opponent twice and claim the match.

I still don’t think my best tennis has arrived yet,” O’Connell reassured fans after the match.

It’s just taken me a longer time to figure out how to get these wins, feel confident out there, feel comfortable. I’ve still got some learning to do.”

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He will now play Radu Albot in the second round of the tournament, who defeated 12th seed Roberto Batista Agut earlier today.

Meanwhile, Popyrin will take on South African Lloyd Harris in the next round of the tournament.  

Featured Image: Popyrin RG19 (46) by si.robi // https://www.flickr.com/photos/16732597@N07/48199101562 // Licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Download permissions

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