TennisSection previews the 2022 Melbourne Open as Alexei Popyrin takes on Stefano Travaglia in the first round on Wednesday, January 5th, 2022.
Alexei Popyrin enters this contest as the overwhelming favorite according to the oddsmakers. Will he live up to the pre-match billing, or will Stefano Travaglia summon the moxie that took him to the Great Ocean Road Open final last season? Either way, this first-round match at the 2022 Melbourne Open should have great taste to it.
Alexei Popyrin made a lightning start to his 2021 campaign when he streaked to the title at the newly minted Singapore Open last February. The big-serving Aussie atoned for his second-round exit at the Australian Open by rallying from a set down to defeat Alexander Bublik in the championship match in Southeast Asia. That success heralded a breakthrough year for the 22-year-old. He has been touted (along with De Minaur) to take over the reins as the leading lights of Australian men’s tennis. But Popyrin had a dreadful time during the European summer last year. He picked up one win from six tournaments after the Madrid Masters. Incredibly, that stat did not hamper his ascent in the rankings. Popyrin finished with year-end ranking of No. 61. He opens up his Melbourne Open 2022 campaign against Stefano Travaglia.
Stefano Travaglia begins his quest to repeat last year’s heroics against the top-ranked Aussie in the draw in the form of Alexei Popyrin. The World No. 78 famously reached the his first ATP final at the Great Ocean Road Open last year, toppling the World No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz en route. However, he fell to his countryman Jannik Sinner in two tight sets. While many expected that result would provide him with the platform to even greater success, it kick started an eight-match winless run – the longest he endured during the 2021 season. Incidentally, he ended that personal drought for an ATP Tour main draw win on home soil at the Rome Masters when he beat Benoit Paire in straight sets. In contrast, he had a productive time on the ATP Challenger Tour, where he captured a title on the clay courts of Sibiu, while also reaching three more semifinals.
Alexei Popyrin and Stefano Travaglia have not played each other in the main draw of an ATP Tour event. However, they contested a qualifying match at the Marseille Open in 2018, with the Italian emerging victorious. Popyrin though is not in the same mould as he was three years ago. He will soon break inside the world’s top 50, and what is particularly encouraging is that he has added some bite to his game. Due to his height you would think Popyrin is a one-dimensional player, but he can attack with purpose and has deft touches at the net. Travaglia is no slouch and will likely look to spoil the party, but I am not entirely convinced he can stay true to his game in three sets.
Free Tennis Pick and Prediction: Alexei Popyrin in 3 Sets.
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