The Roar
The Roar


Popyrin eyes off Djokovic as Aus Open heartbreak hits Hijikata, Saville with more Aussies falling

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
15th January, 2024

Alexei Popyrin has dispelled lingering fitness concerns to book a second-round Australian Open showdown with Novak Djokovic.

Popyrin outclassed wildcard and great mate Marc Polmans 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 in the first of two-all Australian match-ups on Monday to earn a centre court shot at the 10-time Open champion.

A late scratching from last week’s Adelaide International after being troubled by a back complaint in Brisbane, Popyrin moved freely in living up to his Australian No.2 status with an impressive straight-sets win.

Watch every Australian Open match ad-free, live & on demand with centre court in 4K Ultra-HD on the home of Grand Slam tennis, Stan Sport.

The world No.43 crunched 20 aces, won all 14 of his service games and broke Polmans four times in progressing in two hours and 28 minutes on John Cain Arena.

With two forays to the last 32 and wins over former US Open champion Dominic Thiem, 2008 AO finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and fellow top-10 stars Taylor Fritz and David Goffin, Melbourne Park has been the happiest of grand slam hunting grounds for Popyrin.

Now the 24-year-is relishing a crack at Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena, most likely on Wednesday night.

“I’ve known him since I was a kid and watched him play since I was a kid,” Popyrin said in his on-court interview.


“I last played him when I was 19. I’ve improved since then. Looking forward to going out there and we’ll see what I can bring.

“I’ll need the crowd on my side for the whole match up. Hopefully you guys can come out and support me like you did today though.” 

Popyrin was the second Australian to advance on day two of the Open, with doubles queen Storm Hunter continuing her stunning rise to prominence with a long-awaited maiden Australian Open main-draw win.

Australia’s world No.1 doubles star built on her momentum from qualifying with a 6-4 6-3 first-round victory over former French Open finalist Sara Errani on Monday.

Incredibly, the watershed win comes in her 10th Open campaign since debuting in 2012 as a teenager.


The 29-year-old has been handed wildcards for every one of her previous nine tilts, including main-draw first-round defeats in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2022 and 2023.

Hunter’s only other Open win was in qualifying four years ago.

“It means everything,” she said after finally breaking through.

“I grew up watching the Australian Open and then dreaming of playing here and then I’ve had a lot of opportunities.

“I’m a little bit older, so I’ve played a few main draws and never got the win.

“So to come through qualifying and to win my first round and kind of waiting … it’s insane.” 


Growing in belief and stature, the 2024 version of Hunter is a different beast to past years.

She is flying after becoming Australia’s first top-ranked women’s doubles ace since Samantha Stosur in 2006 and emerging as a linchpin for the nation’s Billie Jean King Cup and United Cup teams over the past two years.

Now the crafty left-hander is intent on forging a successful singles career.

“I’ve got a big schedule now,” Hunter said.

“Singles, doubles and mixed, so bring it on.”

Without the leg-up of a wildcard for the first time at her home grand slam, Hunter is the first Australian to progress to the women’s second round.

She will play either Russian 17th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova or German Laura Siegemund next for a place in the third round of a singles major for the first time.


Sports opinion delivered daily 


While Hunter marched on, Australian wildcard Taylah Preston crashed out with a 6-2 6-2 loss to Ukraine’s 19th seed Elina Svitolina.

It was a similarly disappointing day for 29-year-old Daria Saville, who came into the tournament in hot form, reaching the semis of the Hobart International. She fell in a three-hour heartbreaker in the first round.

On the comeback trail after returning to the tour in June from a serious knee injury, Saville saved four match points before succumbing to 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 7-5 to Poland’s Magdalena Frech.

The 29-year-old Australian looked down and out in the third set, trailing 2-5.
But she saved a match point while serving at 30-40 and then broke world No.69 Frech, before levelling at 5-5.

Ultimately the Pole proved too consistent for a wayward Saville, who has twice made the fourth round of the Open.


Saville’s serve proved costly with 14 double faults, tossing up three consecutive doubles in one service game to give up an early break in the second set.

She also had 62 unforced errors compared to Frech’s 38.

“I’m disappointed with the result, disappointed with my performance as well,” Saville said.

“The best thing I can be positive about is the way I fought in the third, so no regrets there but overall I didn’t play my best tennis – I didn’t play as well as I was playing in Hobart or Brisbane.”

Despite the telling stats, Saville said there were positives to take from the loss – notably being able to compete on the big stage for a three hour 10 minute battle which was the longest in the women’s draw so far.

“I’m close – there are glimpses of me being there already,” she said. 


“The fact I can play a three-hour match, it’s all really promising.”

Saville will remain in Melbourne to partner fellow Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic in the women’s doubles beginning on Wednesday.

It was heartbreak of a similar kind for Rinky Hijikata in a dramatic five-set tussle with 24th seed Jan-Lennard Struff, the 22-year old taking the match to a deciding tie-break with a ferocious fight in front of a raucous Court 3 crowd.

Cheered on by the pro-Australian contingent, Hijikata was up a break in the final set but couldn’t hold it, before recovering from a 5-1 deficit in the match tie-break to get things back on serve at 8-9.

However, a backhand sailed narrowly long to hand Struff a thrilling victory, his first at Melbourne Park since 2018.