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Popyrin upsets defending champ Rublev


Defending Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion Andrey Rubelv suffered a surprise opening-round defeat on his return to the Principality on Wednesday when he lost to Australian Alexei Popyrin.

In front of a packed crowd on Court Rainier III, Popyrin delivered an aggressive performance to triumph 6-4, 6-4 after one hour and 40 minutes.

“I enjoyed coming out on centre court for the first time. First tournament on clay of the year and I have good memories from clay last year,” said Popyrin, who triumphed on the surface in Umag in 2023. “I am feeling really comfortable on it and happy to beat a guy who was in form, confident and the defending champ. It was an awesome match.”

The Australian hit with variety and struck 25 winners according to Infosys ATP Stats to earn the sixth Top 10 win of his career and his first against Rublev, with the pair 1-1 in their ATP Head2Head series. It is just the second time Popyrin has defeated a Top 10 player on clay, having downed then-World No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the fourth round in Rome last year.

“The idea was not to give him the same ball,” Popyrin said. “He is probably the best player from the baseline when you give him rhythm, so I tried to change the pace, height and spin and I think it worked really well for me today.”

Rublev won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Monte-Carlo last season, beating Holger Rune in the title match. The World No. 6, who is 15-7 on the year, was unable to find his fluid best level against Popyrin, though, committing 13 unforced errors.

Popyrin is making his fourth appearance in Monte-Carlo with this the first time he has advanced to the third-round stage. The 24-year-old, who clawed past Corentin Moutet in three sets in his first-round match, will next play Alex de Minaur.

De Minaur overcame Tallon Griekspoor 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to win consecutive clay-court matches for the first time since advancing to the semi-finals in Lyon in 2022.

The Australian, who triumphed on hard in Acapulco earlier this year, is now 21-6 on the season. By reaching the third round alongside countryman Popyrin, it is the first time an Australian has advanced to that stage in Monte-Carlo since Lleyton Hewitt and Wayne Arthurs in 2004.

In other action, Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego moved past Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5. The 28-year-old’s best result in Monte-Carlo was a quarter-final showing in 2019. At this year’s edition, he will next face Ugo Humbert after the French No. 1 beat Zhizhen Zhang 6-1, 6-4. Earlier this season Humbert won titles in Marseille and Dubai.

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