Tokyo, Japan, 17 October 2023 | Rhys de Deugd

Tokyo, Japan

Alexei Popyrin’s giant-killing year has continued, scoring his fourth top-15 win of 2023 in the first round of the Japan Open in Tokyo.

The Australian defeated world No.15 Karen Khachanov in imposing fashion, recording a 6-4 6-2 victory in one hour and 32 minutes.

The world No.41 fired off 11 aces and recorded a first-serve percentage of 94 per cent on his way to his 22nd tour-level win of the season. This ties his previous best record in 2021.

This is the first win in this year’s Asian swing for the 24-year-old, who has the best win-loss record of his career for a calendar year.

He will next face Chilean qualifier Cristian Garin in the second round, in the pair’s first ATP Tour meeting.

Meanwhile, a resilient Alex de Minaur has fought back from a set down to win a tight three-set battle over Brit Jack Draper to join Popyrin and Jordan Thompson in the second round.

With his back against the wall multiple times throughout the match, the Australian No.1 proved it was a survival of the fittest as he prevailed 4-6 7-6(4) 7-6(1).

Alex de Minaur and Jack Draper shake hands after the first round at the Japan Open. Getty Images

Alex de Minaur and Jack Draper shake hands after the first round at the Japan Open. Getty Images

Despite showing signs of physical stress, Draper served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but was then broken by the Aussie No.1.

De Minaur was able to claim the third-set tiebreak and win the match in three hours and five minutes.

“This match was won on attitude and fitness, so happy to take the win and still be alive.” De Minaur said, crediting his stamina for outlasting Draper.

“It’s never easy and it’s a shame this match finished the way it did, when someone is struggling it just makes it so much harder to finish off.”

The 24-year-old has now played four three-hour matches for the year and has managed to win three of them.

“I’m not going to lose a match on fitness, I pride myself on that,” he said. “Whether it’s three hours or four hours, or five, I’m happy it helped me out today.”

The Australian now holds a 30-14 record on hard courts this season, which is the fourth best on the ATP Tour for 2023.

Men’s singles, first round
[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) d [Q] Jack Draper (GBR) 4-6 7-6(4) 7-6(1)
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) d [7] Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-2

Men’s singles, second round
Jordan Thompson (AUS) v TBC
[4] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v TBC
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v [Q] Cristian Garin (CHI)

Men’s doubles, first round
Alexei Popyrin (AUS)/Aleksander Vukic (AUS) v Michael Venus (NZL)/Jamie Murray (GBR)
Max Purcell (AUS)/ Rinky Hijikata (AUS) v [LL] Shintaro Mochizuki(JPN)/Rio Noguchi (JPN)

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