Umag, Croatia, 30 July 2023 | Matt Trollope

Alexei Popyrin overcame a quad strain, and an illustrious opponent, to win his second career ATP title on Sunday.

The Australian beat Stan Wawrinka 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4 in a two-hour, 34-minute battle to hoist the trophy in Umag.

He becomes the first Australian man since Lleyton Hewitt in 2009 to win a tour-level clay-court title.

Popyrin’s first ATP title came back in February 2021, in Singapore. It was the same year he rose to his career-best ranking of world No.59.

Since then, however, he did not reach another tour-level quarterfinal for almost two years, and fell as low as world No.131 last November.

Ranked No.120 as he began season 2023, he had worked his way back to 90th this week, and is expected to hit a new career-high ranking of 57th thanks to his triumph.

“It’s an unbelievable honour to play somebody like Stan in a final,” Popyrin said.

“I grew up watching him play, and to play him in a final, and beat him in a final, honestly, words can’t describe how happy I am.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

In their first meeting, Popyrin served for the opening set only for Wawrinka, a former world No.3 and three-time Grand Slam champion, to storm back into the match.

But Popyrin responded well to that disappointment, breaking Wawrinka early in the second set and maintaining that advantage to force a final set.

There, he required a medical timeout to attend to a leg strain. But the 23-year-old Aussie was able to battle through discomfort, breaking Wawrinka late in the set and serving out the match in the following game.

“I think it’s pulled. But I managed to dig deep. I don’t know how I won it, honestly. I honestly don’t know,” Popyrin said.

“I’m here in the final, and there’s no point in quitting. If I lose, I lose. If I retire, I lose anyway. I have a better chance of winning if I stay in it.

“So that’s what I decided to do.”

Popyrin improves to 15-6 on clay this season, and has now won 18 matches in tour-level main draws.

In addition to his Umag title, he reached the Adelaide quarterfinals, the last 16 in Rome, and the third round of the Australian Open, in what has been a resurgent season.

Aussies in action – Umag

Men’s singles, final
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) d [6] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4