Australian Open 2023: Emotional Alexei Popyrin interview melts hearts, defeat Taylor Fritz, upset

Aussie Alexei Popyrin has melted the world’s hearts with an emotional post-match interview after pulling off a stunning five-set upset of US eighth seed Taylor Fritz.

Fritz was expected to go deep in the tournament but he was yet another early casualty on a day of upsets with five seeded players including No. 2 seed Casper Ruud and 12th seed Alexander Zverev knocked out of the tournament before the night session had even begun.

But it was Popyrin that was a favourite upset, with the Aussie coming from 113th in the world and needing a wildcard to even play in the event after a shocking 2022 season.

Already in 2023 he’s defeated World No. 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime and now the World No. 9 in Fritz.

Popyrin had an absolute shocker of a season last year, winning just five from 22 matchers on the ATP Tour and dropping from a career high of World No. 59 to a low of World No. 131.

After completing the win against Fritz 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-2, the relief and emotion was clear for the 23-year-old from Sydney.

Soaking it all in, Popyrin even joined in the crowd chanting “Popy, Popy”.

Wiping away sweat and tears, Popyrin was blown away.

“You guys were just incredible, oh my god,” Popyrin began.

“Crazy man, I really couldn’t have done it without you guys.

“This win, it means so much to me. I had a tough year last year. Didn’t win many matches, I’ve won as many matches this year as I did all of last year.

“Pre-season I put my head down and I worked as hard as I possibly could. I don’t want that feeling I had last year ever again. I’m going to keep working, I’m going to keep pushing, I’m going to try and keep going all the way. I love this feeling, I want more of this feeling, I want you guys to have this feeling more … Man I love you guys so much. Thank you.”

Popyrin was in or near tears throughout the interview with his voice shaking under the weight of what he had just achieved.

Incredibly, in Popyrin’s section of the draw, Ruud and Fritz mean that the next time he’ll face a seeded player could be the semi-finals, depending on the result of the Roberto Bautista Agut — Brandon Holt match. If Holt wins, it’ll be the semi-finals, although that will likely be against Novak Djokovic or Andrey Rublev.

Asked about his team and their reactions, Popyrin said it was like they were on the court with him.

“It means so much to them – I was playing four hours and me and my coach were locked in, it was like two against one against Fritzy,” Popyrin said.

“We had the same thoughts all the time and I really couldn’t have done it without them. The work we put in this pre-season and the work we put in last year as well, even when things weren’t going well, this is a dream for me and I don’t want to wake up at all.”

Popyrin will play Ben Shelton tomorrow and said he’d not even look at a racquet tomorrow to make sure he is 100 per cent for the match.

The world quickly fell in love with the Aussie star.

Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott wrote: “Popyrin in tears has got me cutting onions over here. What a beautiful interview. You deserve it mate!”

Sport reporter Nick McCarvel commented: “Goosebumps from on-court interview from Alexei Popyrin with @caseydellacqua.”

The Express’ Yasmin Syed tweeted: “Incredible effort from Popyrin. Incredible. Didn‘t let his head go when he lost the fourth and pulled off a really complete performance to upset Fritz. Such an emotional win after struggling last year with barely any matches and falling out of the top 100.”

CODE Sports’ Adam Peacock added: “Awesome scenes on JCA. Stands literally shaking on match point for Popyrin.”

Rayder Media co-owner Derek Alberts posted: “Australian Alexei Popyrin delivers a magnificent performance on court and follows that up with one of the most memorable post-match interviews ever seen in Melbourne.”

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