TOKYO – Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin have been left celebrating new career landmarks with their double assault on the Japan Open title in Tokyo.
The two 24-year-old Sydneysiders both powered into the quarter-finals of the ATP 500 hard-court event at the Ariake Coliseum by defeating South American opposition.
De Minaur took out another diminutive battler, Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-0 7-5 while Popyrin fought from a set and a break down to beat Chilean Cristian Garin 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.
De Minaur’s win puts him into a 10th tour-level quarter-final of the season and he’s the first Australian man to achieve that feat since his Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt back in 2004.
And for Popyrin, a 22nd tour-level win of 2023 matches his best-ever season back in 2021, with the promise of more to come when he faces Japanese wild card Shintaro Mochizuki, a surprise conqueror of Taylor Fritz, in his fourth quarter-final appearance of the season.
“I am always happy [to win],” De Minaur said, after matching Hewitt. “Especially against a tough competitor like Diego. I am most proud of how I stay composed out there.
“I was up a bit in the second set and could have let that slip but I kept my head together, told myself I would get more chances and I was able to sneak through in two sets.”
Next up for de Minaur is a last-eight clash with Aslan Karatsev, the Russian who first made his name with his breakthrough run to the Australian Open semi-finals as a qualifier in 2021.
It will be a chance for world No.13 de Minaur to gain revenge for his defeat by Karatsev on clay in the Madrid Masters earlier this year as he seeks to maintain his late push to earn a place in the end-of-season ATP Finals in Turin.
A second title of the year this week could see De Minaur climb at best to ninth in the ‘race to Turin’ standings, moving ever closer to the top eight players in the list who will make the finals.
Popyrin, currently ranked No.41, will leave Japan with a new career-high ranking as he breaks into the top-40 for the first time.
It was a particularly satisfying win for Popyrin, who showed real resilience when 4-2 down in the second set and staring at a straights-set defeat.
He responded aggressively, going on the attack as Garin served up a double fault to help gift the break back and eventually cashing in on a couple of mini-breaks to level the match.
With Garin beginning to struggle from a thigh problem that required courtside treatment in the final set, Popyrin began to take control, blasting 41 winners as he ran out the winner in two hours and 56 minutes.
“That was a battle, I’ve had a lot of them this year so it’s good to come out on the right side,” said Popyrin according to Australian Associated Press.
The most surprised man in the arena was home favourite, Mochizuki after he shocked Fritiz 0-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2).
The 20-year-old, ranked only 215 in the world, was 5-2 down in the third set before forcing the deciding tiebreaker and earning his first win over a top-10 player.
“I don’t really know what is happening right now,” said Mochizuki, as he reached his first-ever quarter-final.
“I kept fighting and that is all I could do. I am so happy. I don’t know how – but I won.”
Elsewhere, Gael Monfils broke Richard Gasquet’s record for most hard-court tour-level wins by a Frenchman by beating qualifier Filip Misolic 6-4, 6-3 at the BNP Paribas Nordic Open in Stockholm.
Monfils’ 356th hard-court victory set up a quarter-final showdown with second seed and countryman Adrian Mannarino.
The 37-year-old has now won four consecutive sets at the ATP 250, having battled back from a set down to defeat Marton Fucsovics in the opening round. Against Austria’s Misolic,
Monfils hit 11 aces and lost just four points on first serve (31/35). He saved the only break point he faced in the one-hour, 13-minute win.
“Filip is playing a little bit more loopy than Marton,” Monfils said after advancing to his first indoor quarter-final in more than two years.
“Of course he’s a solid player on both sides. But Marton was very aggressive, so today was about me controlling the points and mixing up the speeds. I think I’ve done good. I was in control so I’m very happy to win this match in two sets.”
“It’s going to be a really tough one. Adrian is in great form, his best season,” said Monfils.
“He has a tricky game. I will have to play my game; try to be 100 per cent physically to have a strong, physical battle.”
Tomas Machac is also through to the quarter-finals after a 6-4, 6-1 win against Stan Wawrinka. The Czech saved all three break points against him to earn his second Top 50 win and reach his second tour-level quarter-final.
The 23-year-old also reached the quarters earlier this season on the clay of Houston, where he was beaten by Yannick Hanfmann.
Wawrinka’s defeat snapped a 17-match winning streak for the Swiss against Czech opponents.