Melbourne, Australia , 8 December 2023 | Dan Imhoff

Rising from outside the top 100 in March to end the year in the top 40, Alexei Popyrin has made giant strides in 2023.

The former junior Roland Garros champion enjoyed his strongest season on tour, which included three top-10 victories, a first clay-court title and maiden ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal.

Having started the year as a 120th-ranked qualifier, Popyrin began with a bang in Adelaide where he stunned then-world No.6 Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the quarterfinals.

It proved the perfect springboard to his sixth Australian Open, where as a wildcard he channelled a boisterous home crowd to upset eighth seed Taylor Fritz in a four-hour, five-set thriller to reach the third round.

“This win means so much to me. I had the toughest year last year. I won as many matches this year as I did the whole of last year, and it’s only January,” Popyrin said of equalling his best result at a major.

“This pre-season I put my head down. I worked as hard as I possibly could. I don’t want that feeling that I had last year ever again.

“I wrote (that) down to myself in my head: I’m going to keep working, I’m going to keep pushing, I’m going to try and keep going all the way, mate. I love this feeling, and I want more of this feeling.”

The 24-year-old experienced that winning feeling again at the Rome Masters, where as a qualifier he landed his second upset of Auger-Aliassime on his way to the fourth round. There, he narrowly succumbed to world No.7 Holger Rune.

> READ: Australian Tennis Awards 2023 finalists revealed

In July, Popyrin took it up a level when he denied three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka in a three-set battle for the Umag title.

He subsequently soared from world No.90 to No.57 and became the first Australian in 14 years to land a tour-level clay-court singles trophy.

A further breakthrough was just around the corner when in his next event, as a lucky loser, he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal at Cincinnati before he fell to Hubert Hurkacz.

It was enough to lift Popyrin into the top 40, where he would remain for the rest of the season.

His efforts were rewarded in November with a Davis Cup call-up for Australia in Malaga.

In his first appearance in the competition since 2021, he notched a career-first win in a live rubber, overcoming Otto Virtanen to steer his team into consecutive finals.

“It’s nerves, it’s pressure, you’re playing for everybody back home,” Popyrin said. “It’s something that nothing will ever compare to.

“Winning a 250, it won’t compare to it at all. So for me it really was the biggest moment of my career to get the first live rubber win, to get one foot into the final. Yeah, for me, it was something that I’ll never forget.”

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Newcombe Medal
Honour roll
Year Winner
2022 Ash Barty
2021 Ash Barty and Dylan Alcott
2020 Not presented
2019 Ash Barty
2018 Ash Barty and Alex de Minaur
2017 Ash Barty
2016 Dylan Alcott
2015 Sam Groth
2014 Nick Kyrgios
2013 Lleyton Hewitt
2012 Sam Stosur
2011 Sam Stosur
2010 Sam Stosur

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