Australia’s 19-year-old Alexei Popyrin was on a 10-match win streak when he took on fellow Australian Maverick Banes in the quarterfinals at the Gwangju Open Challenger $50,000 in Korea. He had won three qualifying matches, before winning another five in the main draw at the Jinan $150,000 Challenger event which he won last week. Add in another two wins in Gwangju and he was looking to make it 11 straight wins.
Popyrin had jumped 99 places to 211 after his title last week, Banes is ranked at 284 and was playing in his first ATP Challenger quarterfinal in 2018.
The 26-year-old started slowly against Popyrin as he dropped serve in the opening game of the match. Popyrin went out to a 2-0 lead after holding his serve. Banes started to get on top mid-way through the first set and broke to level the score at 3-3. The ninth game of the first set was a key game as Popyrin held several break points but was not able to convert, instead Banes held for a 5-4 lead and then he broke in the next game to take the first set 6-4.
Popyrin was looking like a different player in this match compared to how he was seen at Jinan. Popyrin’s body language showed his frustration and a shot into the net followed by a double fault gave Banes three break point at 1-2. Banes chased well to keep the ball in play and pushed Popyrin deep after he had been closing into the net and this forced Popyrin to hit wide to concede the game. He then let out a scream of frustration.
Banes managed to keep Popyrin at bay and he closed out the match to win 6-4, 6-3 and move into his first Challenger semifinal in 2018 and his first sing Traralgon in October last year.
In another quarterfinal, Australia’s Akira Santillan lost to Ji Sung Nam [Q] KOR 6-2, 6-3. He let an early second set lead slip to lose the match.