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Wimbledon: Popyrin challenges Djokovic yet again

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Australian Alexei Popyrin has troubled 24-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic for the second time this year, with the pair playing a hard-fought four setter at Wimbledon on Saturday.

The third-round match was won by Djokovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), but not without some heart-in-the-mouth moments for the seven-time champion in London.
Popyrin came out serving huge and clinched the first set in front of a packed-out Centre Court crowd.

While Djokovic responded by winning the next two, the match was on a knife’s edge as the fourth set headed to a tiebreaker.

As he often does, the Serbian raised his level when it mattered most, racing past the 24-year-old 7-3 in the breaker to book his spot in the round of 16.

Djokovic impressed by Popyrin’s level—and his own

“He was the better player for the first set and then I stepped it up,” said Djokovic after the match.

“I think I played a really good second and third set, and then in the fourth I think it was anybody’s game.

“It was a very challenging match today, mentally as well, to hang in there and not allow any concentration lapses.

“I think I’ve done well in that regard, and I think it reflected well in the tiebreak – that was one of the best tiebreaks I played this year, that’s for sure.”

Djokovic and Popyrin have history, with the pair playing an almost identical match in January of this year at the Australian Open.

In that match, Popyrin also won a set and forced the then-world No.1 to a tiebreak as well.

Djokovic will now face former world No.4 Holger Rune in the fourth round, with the pair’s head-to-head sitting at an intriguing 3-2 in the 37-year-old’s favour.

De Minaur into round of 16 without breaking a sweat

Popyrin’s loss to Djokovic means Alex de Minaur is the only Australian remaining in the men’s draw.

This comes as no surprise, as the Aussie was an outside shot at the title leading into the tournament. He now sits in the fifth line of betting at $19 with the top tennis bookmakers.

His spot in the round of 16 came a whole lot easier than he would have anticipated, with the 25-year-old not even needing to take to the court on Saturday.

Due to face Frenchman Lucas Pouille, de Minaur was gifted a walkover when his opponent withdrew injured ahead of the clash.

The No.9 seed will now face another French player in the fourth round, in the form of big-hitting youngster Arthur Fils.

Fils is through to the round of 16 at a major for the first time, making de Minaur an odds-on bookmaker favourite ($1.20) to advance to the quarter-finals on Monday.

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