Australia’s Alexei Popryin took on Daniil Medvedev, the world no. 2 and top seed in Miami for a place in the fourth round.
Games went with serve and neither player faced a break point early in the match.
At 5-5 Medvedev earned his first break point when Popyrin netted a backhand. Popyrin, from the second serve forced the issue and got an error from Medvedev as the Russian hit wide.
Some good play at the net saw Popyrin go to Ad. He was 6 of 7 at the net after that point.
Popyrin was ahead 0-30 at 5-6 with Medvedev serving. The world no. 86 then missed three straight shots before a winner from the top seed took the set into a tiebreaker.
A big serve wide again forced an error from Medvedev as the Russian returned long.
Popyrin dropped the first point on serve with a weak backhand that went wide. Medvedev then netted a shot for 1-1.
Another error from Popyrin off the backhand had it at 1-2.
A good point from Popyrin made Medvedev come up with a great passing shot as he whipped a forehand crosscourt for 3-1.
It was then quickly 4-1. Another backhand hit wide by Popyrin and the Russian surged to 5-1.
A forehand into the net from Medvedev made it 2-5 with The Australian serving. A long rally followed with Popyin lifting his intensity. It would end with Medvedev hitting a down the line forehand just wide.
The next rally was a bad one for Popyrin. He hit a good serve and Medvedev hit a floating return. Popyrin seemed to misjudge the bounce, or was thinking it was going long, but he had an air swing and the ball landed in.
At 6-3, the Russian needed just one set point as Popyrin hit a backhand return into the net.
Low first serve percentage for Medvedev, but still takes the first set
The world no. 2 had served at just 40% in the opening set but still won 93% of first serve points. Popyrin was serving at 62% for 68% of first serve points won.
Medvedev was serving first in the second set and held to love in game one.
At 30-30 in the next game Medvedev hit a great running backhand that he whipped cross court for the winner. It took some big hitting from Popyrin that finally forced an error to save the break point.
Another break point was on offer after the next point when Popyrin attempted to serve and volley. The return was at Popyrin’s toes and he missed the volley.
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A big serve saved another break point. A third for the game came after Popyrin hit into the net after a couple of shots.
He saved another in style. A big forehand setup an easy put away volley. Ad was Popyrin’s after Medvedev attempted a drop shot that went into the net.
Popyrin was working hard to stay in the next point but eventually would hit into the net. It was deuce again. A wide Ace, which was his first for the match got Ad again for Popyrin after an eight minute service game.
Much to the relief of Popyrin, Medvedev hit a service return long for 1-1.
Popyrin let a 40-15 lead slip and after three errors he faced a break point. This time the Russian converted after stretching Popying on the volley, it sat up for Medvedev to hit a winner for 3-1.
Medvedev would consolidate the break for 4-1 after holding to love.
Popyrin came back from 0-30 to hold and have the Russian serving at 4-2.
Another comfortable service hold had Medvedev one game from a round four appearance.
A double fault from the Russian saw Popyrin jump to 0-30. A big forehand winner made it 0-40. Popyrin ran around a forehand for a huge winner to break.
In the next game Popyrin fell behind after opening with a double fault and a forehand hit wide. A Popyrin shanked forehand gave the Russian three match points.
The Australian fought back with an Ace out wide. Another good first serve saw Medvedev hit well long on the return.
With Medvedev stepping into the court for a forehand and looking in control, teh Russian hit long. Popyrin then came to the net and hit several great volleys to force the error for Ad.
After a long rally it was the Russian that cracked, he hit into the net and it was 5-5.
A love hold saw the pressure back on Popyrin. This time he would come from 0-15 to hold and send the match into a second tie breaker.
Medvedev opened the serving and Popyrin found a nice angle to push Medvedev wide on the backhand. He looked awkward as he hit into the net.
A forehand winner saw Popyrin out to 2-0. Popyrin was now forcing the issue and moved to 3-0 after some big hitting.
Medvedev hit a second serve let before serving again. Popyrin hit a backhand into the net for 1-3 with the Russian serving.
A Popyrin unforced error on the service return saw Popyrin serving at 3-2.
A wide shot to the Medvedev backhand forced him to lob. It was easily put away by the Australian who now was up 4-2.
Medvedev ripped a forehand that Popyrin then hit into the net and it was back on serve.
A big first serve had Popyrin on the stretch and the ball sat up for Medvedev to smash into the stands.
Medvedev went up 5-4 after some big hitting from Popyrin, but the Australian would eventually hit into the net.
A second serve from Popyrin was returned into the net for 5-5. A great wide serve saw Popyrin take position at the net to volley for 6-5.
A forehand winner made it 6-6 with Medvedev serving.
Popyrin would have set point at 7-6 but double faulted. Another set point came after Medvedev hit long.
This time Medvedev was serving but Popyrin hit a forehand winner to take the set.
Popyrin can’t land knockout blow
The final set went on serve until the seventh game when Medvedev got the break to lead 4-3. The Russian was now suffering from cramps and it remained to be seen if he could hold on.
Popyrin was not able to break back despite Medvedev struggling big time. The Russian would go for his shots but Popyrin didn’t take advantage of weak serves.
An example was when he completely mishit a serve that was just rolled into court, that conceded the game to see the Russian at 5-3.
Popyrin in his next service game just had to pick a spot on court to place his serves and he won the point, it did however struggle to do that. In the end he held and Medvedev had to serve out the match.
Medvedev was almost unable to move but he found it in himself to hit balls with enough power to force Popyrin around the court.
Popyrin was only able to get balls back to Medvedev instead of moving him around. That allowed the world no. 2 to be able to hang tough and find a way to win the match.
Inexperience in this situation cost the Australian what would have been a huge victory. Instead Medvedev toughed it out and lifted just enough to take the match 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4.
“It’s probably one of the sweetest victories in my career, because I was cramping like hell in the third set,” Medvedev said in an on-court interview. “It’s one thing when you’re cramping when you’re [ahead in the score], but I started cramping before. It was tough to think about the win in these conditions.
“At the same time, I should have won in two sets and we would not be talking about cramping. But anyway, we have the result on the board and I’m happy that I managed to go through all the difficulties of this definitely crazy match.”
After this result Popyrin sits at no. 81 in the live rankings. Depending on other results this would be a career-high ranking. There are still five players alive in the tournament that could bump him down.
Popyrin’s current career-high is no. 82. Popyrin is next due to play in the ATP 250 event in Marbella along with James Duckworth.