Alexei Popyrin Defeats Stan Wawrinka in Final, Wins Croatian Open

Noah Strang
By:
Noah Strang
01/08/2023
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Popyrin Wins the Croatian Open, Defeating Stan Wawrinka in the Final

Alexei Popyrin battled through an opening set loss and quad cramps to win his second ATP Tour title at the Croatian Open. 

News Insights

  • Popyrin wins Croatian Open.
  • Takes down three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the final.
  • Third set quad soreness no match for the young Australian.
  • New career high ranking for Popyrin.

Australian Alexei Popyrin took down Stan Wawrinka in the final of the Croatian Open to claim the second ATP Tour title of his career and his biggest win to date. The 23-year-old battled through third set quad soreness to take the victory and achieve a new career high ranking of 57. 

Popyrin Beats Wawrinka for Croatian Open Crown

Australian 23-year-old Alexei Popyrin has won his second ATP Tour title at the Croatian Open. In the early hours of Monday morning, Popyrin ousted three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the final in Umag to claim the victory. 

With the win, the up and comer became the first Australian to win an ATP Tour tournament on clay since Lleyton Hewitt’s triumph at the 2009 Houston Open. 

The match was anything but a layup for Popyrin who found himself on the wrong end of a tightly contested first set tiebreak and suffered quad cramping and soreness early in the third and deciding set. 

Popyrin eventually prevailed ousting the veteran Wawrinka 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 to claim his biggest victory to date. Though Wawrinka has not won an ATP Tour tournament since 2019 he was the favourite heading into the final given the form he had shown throughout the tournament. 

Popyrin, ranked 90th in the world when the tournament began, was unseeded. Wawrinka was 72nd in the world and seeded sixth. 

How it Happened

In the opening set, Alexei Popyrin found himself up a break and serving for the set at 5-4, but he was unable to hold serve. Wawrinka showed his class, tying the set at 5-5 and putting the pressure back on Popyrin. 

The two would go on to trade punches in a back-and-forth tiebreaker. Wawrinka went up 5-3 and looked in charge until Popyrin claimed the next two points to tie it up at five. With the momentum on his side, it seemed as though Popyrin would win the set, but Wawrinka stayed composed and closed out the tiebreak 7-5. 

Popyrin bounced back from the first set disappointment in a strong way in the second set breaking Wawrinka early and this time not relinquishing his break, closing out the set 6-3. 

Then, early in the third set, it appeared as though Popyrin’s chances may be finished as he began experiencing quad cramps and soreness. 

Post-match Popyrin spoke on the struggles he was having stating: 

My quad was done at two all. I felt it cramp, I felt it strain. I think it’s pulled.” 

I even told the physio when he came out. He said, ‘If you go any more then it will be tough’.” 

The young Aussie showed heart and perseverance however, telling himself: “there’s no point in quitting now, I’m here in the final. If I lose, I lose. If I retire, I lose anyway, so I have a better chance of winning if I stay in.” 

He went on to fight through his pain and close out the set on his serve as he won the match 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4.

The victory is Popyrin’s second ATP 250 title and the biggest of his career given Wawrinka’s impressive pedigree. The Swiss player has three Grand Slam titles, and defeated the top-ranked player in the world in the final on each of the three occasions. 

Popyrin Achieves a New Career High

With the win, Popyrin has jumped to 57 in the ATP rankings, two spots ahead of his previous best of 59 from 2021.

He is also now the third highest ranked Australian on the ATP Tour having leapfrogged six of his fellow countryman thanks to his accomplishments in Umag. 

Quad cramps weren’t enough to deter Australia’s Alexei Popyrinfrom winning his second ATP Tour title at the Croatian Open on Monday morning. The 23-year-old who is now ranked 57th in the world and will hope to charge further up the ladder and become a mainstay in the top 30 for years to come.