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De Minaur, Popyrin, O'Connell roll on at Miami Open

3 minute read

Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin have breezed into round three of the Miami Open while fellow Australian Chris O'Connell has powered into the last 16.

ALEX DE MINAUR. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Alex de Minaur has reached another milestone on his successful 2024 journey by earning his 18th singles win of the season - more than any other man on tour.

Fellow Sydneysiders Alexei Popyrin and Chris O'Connell also won in straight sets at Miami Gardens, giving Australia its best representation at the ATP Masters 1000 event - one of the biggest on the circuit - in years.

It's turning into a real breakthrough season for de Minaur, who has this year made the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time.

One of the noticeable improvements is how he's wasting little energy dispatching players well below him in the rankings.

On Sunday, he defeated South Korea's Soon-woo Kwon, who's slumped down the rankings to No.863 after a long struggle with a serving-arm shoulder injury, 6-3 6-2 in just 77 minutes.

After a false start, going down 0-40 on his opening service game but rallying to hold serve, the Australian was a model of efficiency.

He didn't give up another break point for the rest of the match while cracking Kwon's delivery four times.

Things will doubtless get trickier for de Minaur, who won the Acapulco 500 crown earlier in March, when he meets the big-serving 24th seed Jan-Lennard Struff in the last 32.

Popyrin could savour a really good win over Czech 26th seed Jiri Lehecka, who won his maiden ATP tour event at the Adelaide International earlier this year.

Popyrin cracked down 10 aces and unleashed 18 winners on his way to a 6-4 6-4 victory which looked as if it might not be that straightforward when the Czech battled back in the second set and broke the Aussie for a 4-2 lead.

But that only prompted Popyrin's best tennis as he reeled off the next four games, losing only five more points on his way to victory in 72 minutes.

Next up he faces Hungary's Fabian Marozsan, who delivered a major shock by defeating world No.7 Holger Rune 6-1 6-1.

Marozsan is certainly capable of earning big wins, having defeated Carlos Alcaraz in Rome and Casper Ruud in Shanghai last year.

He and Popyrin will be playing each other for the first time.

O'Connell survived a serving shootout against rising American 20-year-old Martin Damm to book a glamour last-16 date with Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner.

O'Connell crunched 13 aces compared to Damm's 18 and converted his only break point of the match in a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) victory at the Hard Rock Stadium.

A first-round qualifying loser last year, O'Connell fended off nine break points to continue his best run yet at a Masters 1000 tournament.

Second-seeded Sinner pulled off a great escape by coming back from the brink with a gritty 5-7 7-5 6-1 win over Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands.

The final that fans are hoping to see next weekend between Sinner and top seed Carlos Alcaraz looked in danger when the big-hitting Dutchman took the opening set and was serving for a 6-5 lead in the second.

But Sinner displayed the steel that has made him a grand slam champion to come through.

The Italian secured his first break when he needed it most to go up 6-5 and then held serve to level the contest before cruising through the deciding set.

Third seed Daniil Medvedev had a mostly drama-free passage, taking down Britain's Cameron Norrie 7-5 6-1 to ease into the last 16.

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