Novak Djokovic defeats Alexei Popyrin in Australian Open second round

Noah Strang
By:
Noah Strang
18/01/2024
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Djokovic defeated Popyrin in four sets on Wednesday night

Australia’s second-best ranked tennis star is out of the Australian Open after being defeated by the Serbian legend Novak Djokovic.  

News Insights

  • Djokovic defeated Popyrin in four sets.
  • The match was marred by a heckler who taunted Djokovic.
  • Djokovic’s next opponent is Argentina’s Tomás Martín Etcheverry.
  • Popyrin is still competing in the men’s doubles tournament.

The odds of an Australian winning the 2024 Australian Open got a lot longer on Wednesday after Alexei Popyrin was defeated by Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. The 24-year-old Australian was beaten in four sets with Djokovic winning 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 at the Rod Laver Arena. 

Djokovic wins in four sets 

On paper, Novak Djokovic versus Alexei Popyrin looked like a straightforward win for Djokovic. In reality, it turned out to be a little more complicated than that.  
 
Djokovic got out to an early lead, winning the first set 6-3. Popyrin struck back in the second set, drawing things level. The match was then on a knife-edge in the third set. Popyrin took the world number one to a tiebreaker, which Djokovic eventually won. The final set was more convincing for Djokovic. The Serbian dispatched Popyrin 6-3 to win the match in four sets. 
 
Djokovic’s next opponent is Tomás Martín Etcheverry, who is ranked 32nd in the world. The 24-year-old Argentine defeated Scottish legend Andy Murray in the first round before beating France’s Gaël Monfils in straight sets on Tuesday.  

Fan heckled Djokovic during the match 

An otherwise exciting match nearly turned ugly in the third set when Novak Djokovic walked towards the crowd to confront a fan.  
 
Come down here and say that to my face. Come and say it to my face. Come on, come on” Djokovic was heard saying while gesturing to a heckler in the crowd.  
 
In the moment, Nick Kyrgios, who is no stranger to crowd controversy, while commentating for Eurosport, tried to explain the incident. “There’s always some jerk in the crowd who wouldn’t say something to Novak’s face if they were walking through a hallway together,” said the controversial Aussie.  
 
After the match, Djokovic spoke about the heckler. “You don’t want to know,” the Serbian joked before explaining that “There was a lot of things that were being told to me on the court, particularly from that corner, and the same side the other corner. I was tolerating it for most of the match.” 
 
Djokovic further went on to reveal that even he has a breaking point. “At one point I had enough, and I asked him whether he wants to come down and tell it to my face. When you confront somebody, unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the courage to come down. That’s what I was asking him.” 
 
According to Djokovic, the heckler “was apologising from far away. That’s all it is.” The commentators during the match said the fan had not been removed from the Rod Laver Arena. 

Other Australian Open news 

Popyrin wasn’t the only Aussie to be knocked out of the Australian Open second round this week. Christopher O'Connell was defeated by the US’s Ben Shelton 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 on Tuesday. Jordan Thompson was also knocked out in the second round. The 29-year-old Aussie was beaten 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 by Greece’s StefanosTsitsipas.  
 
It wasn’t all bad news for Australians in the second round though. Australia’s number one, Alex De Minaur, earned an easy 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 win against Italy’s Matteo Arnaldi on Wednesday.  
 
Australia’s Max Purcell takes on Norway’s Casper Ruud  on Thursday. Thanasi Kokkinakis, another Aussie, also plays on Thursday. He will face off against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov. Both Purcell and Kokkinakis are underdogs, according to the betting sites. If they do lose, De Minaur will be the only Australian left in the men’s single competition. 

PlayUp gives the Aussie number one $29.00 odds of finishing the tournament as men’s winner, making him a major underdog. De Minaur’s next match is against Italy's Flavio Cobolli. PlayUp and other tennis betting sites have him as a big favourite in that match.