Rising Aussie tennis star wins French Open
ALEXEI Popyrin has become Australia's first French Open boy's singles champion in 49 years, joining a select cluster of champions.
Sydney-born to Russian immigrants, the lanky baseliner is the first Australian to master the nuances of Roland Garros clay since Phil Dent in 1968.
Popyrin's 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 triumph over Spanish 11th seed Nicola Kuhn means he becomes only the fifth Australian male to achieve victory in the juvenile event.
While Dent contested two major finals, the others would claim a combined 27 grand slam singles titles - Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe.
Popyrin, 17, now plans to tackle the lower tiers of the professional circuit, nominating Davis Cup as a future goal.
"I would love to play in Davis Cup, love to be an orange boy at least maybe this year or maybe next year," he said.
"Yeah, for sure winning Davis Cup for my country is one of the main goals, also.
"Winning any tournament feels great, but especially when you win a grand slam, you feel over the moon.
"It's what you have been working for. It's what you have been striving for.
"It's just great to get that step done. Now we have to move on to the pros and try to do the same in the next level.
"The match was great. The match was solid. Couple breaks here and there, but it was just a mental game. It was whoever stayed stronger mentally.
"But I played well. I think we both played well. But I just came out on top mentally."
Coached in Sydney by Kim Warwick, Popyrin now uses the famed French academies run by Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach.
Standing 195cm, Popyrin bases his game on US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro and, like the Argentine, has a lacerating forehand, solid backhand and punishing serve.
He needed all three weapons against Kuhn.
Popyrin salvaged two service breaks in the first set to force a tiebreak, and then found himself facing a 3-5 deficit, before landing a telling psychological blow by winning four points in a row.
He then steamed to 4-1 in the second set with a double break before losing serve himself.
He reset mentally before celebrating with his family and Mouratoglou, who was courtside.
Popyrin's talent is such that he is regularly used as a hitting partner for the elite men and helped warm up Dominic Thiem on the Austrian star's run to the semi-finals.
The Roland Garros junior honour roll also features John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.