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It’s been a pretty wild opening to the 2023 Cincinnati Open. There have been many withdrawals, upsets, and obscure results already, and we’re not even at the third round stage. In fact, if you track the Cincinnati Open schedule, we’ve still got a bunch of second-round matches to wrap up. Yet already, a rather amusing story has emerged involving one of the lucky losers at the Cincinnati Open, Alexei Popyrin. If you haven’t yet seen the story, you are about to be very surprised – that I can assure you.
As you probably know, when any tournaments have a qualifying draw that leads into a main draw for select players, there’s always a chance that someone will become a ‘lucky loser’. In short, this lifeline goes to the highest-ranked player who lost in the final round of qualifying. However, a player can only get a lucky loser entry into the main draw if one of the main draw players withdraws after the draw has been created. This rule has played quite a role at the 2023 Cincinnati Open already, as two lucky losers were awarded entry.
In a rather bizarre situation, with Murray due to play Khachanov in the opening round, these two guys then withdrew from the event. So not only did two lucky losers emerge from the pack, but they also played each other in the opening round. And with this in mind, I’d like to now get a little more specific about why Alexei Popyrin probably cannot believe his luck at the 2023 Western & Southern Open. Let me reveal the full details now.
Popyrin’s lucky loser journey so far at the Cincinnati Open 2023
There are certain moments in a tennis player’s career where it just seems like the stars align. And in the case of Alexei Popyrin at the 2023 Cincinnati Open, it’s fair to say that the stars have more than just aligned for the 24-year-old Australian. In fact, he has experienced perhaps the most fortunate series of events I have seen in recent times, and he now finds himself in the round of 16 of this 1000-level tournament. Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that he doesn’t deserve to be there.
After all, the guy is almost ranked inside the top 50 and he recently won a 250 event in Croatia. So he’s obviously earned his stripes in the 2023 season. However, I’m not sure even he can believe what’s happening at the Western & Southern Open right now. You really couldn’t make it up – so let me share the quite incredible fortunes (so far) for Alexei Popyrin in Cincinnati.
He fell at the final hurdle in qualifying
Despite winning the 250 event in Croatia just a few weeks before this tournament, Popyrin’s ranking wasn’t high enough for a main draw entry. Because of that, he was forced to compete in the qualifying draw of the Cincinnati Open. As it happens, he was the number five seed in the qualifying draw. But he lost in the final round to his fellow countryman, Max Purcell. This was a tight three-set contest that he ultimately lost by a score of 6-4 in the final set.
Anyway, due to his ranking, Popyrin decided to stick around to see if there would be any withdrawals from the tournament. There are many players who do this that are highly ranked as they then have a decent shot at getting in. Yet if nobody withdrew from the main event, this would obviously be the end of Popyrin’s tournament – normally.
He was drawn against Daniel Altmaier – another lucky loser
As referenced above, both Andy Murray and Karen Khachanov pulled out of the 2023 Cincinnati Open. This opened up the door for a couple of lucky losers to gain entry. And not only did they gain entry, they would face each other! Needless to say, as far as first rounds go in major events, you cannot ask for more. Popyrin then took his opportunity too, beating Altmaier in three sets.
He received a walkover in the next round
After beating Daniel Altmaier to reach the second round, Popyrin was then due to face Nicolas Jarry. And this is perhaps the best part of the entire story. Amazingly, Jarry withdrew from the event to race home as his wife was on the verge of giving birth. Of course, this then puts Popyrin through to the third round – a round in which he would expect to play the 7th seed Andrey Rublev.
But even Rublev has been taken out, so Popyrin now faces an unseeded player in the form of Ruusuvuori for a shot at making the quarter-finals – and he lost in qualifying!
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