Sport Tennis Pat Cash says Popyrin is one to watch as Wimbledon hits off
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Pat Cash says Popyrin is one to watch as Wimbledon hits off

On the up: Alexei Popyrin during a qualifying match in the lead up to Wimbledon. Photo: Getty
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After the Ash Barty-induced delirium in the Australian tennis world, there are high hopes that some other up-and-comers can make career inroads when Wimbledon begins tonight.

There are four Australians in action on day one, with the women’s draw providing most of the action.

Ajla Tomljanovic is taking on 29th seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, Daria Gavrilova faces a tough match up against Ukrainian eighth seed Elina Svitolina and Astra Sharma meets 27th seed Sofia Kenin of the US.

In the mens’ draw, former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash has high hopes for teenager Alexei Popyrin, who meets Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, a former US Open semi-finalist.

One of only three teenagers in the world’s top 100, Popyrin makes his much-anticipated Wimbledon debut on Monday after cutting a swathe through the qualifying draw.

But Cash – the 19-year-old’s grasscourt coach for the past few months – said Popyrin had already exceeded all expectations in their time together.

“He’s done a fantastic job, it’s exciting. I haven’t been working with him for a long time, but he’s improved a lot. He’s really got the grasp of it,” Cash said.

“There’s still plenty of work to do. There were things that needed to be fixed on the grass and he’s gone a long way towards that.

“He’s a very quick learner and I’ve been pretty impressed by that.”

Not only impressed by Popyrin’s work ethic and attitude, Cash loves Popyrin’s temperament – at the highest level, that is often what separates the best from the rest.

“This kid can play under pressure and he’s a great athlete,” the former Davis Cup hero said of the 2017 French Open.

“They are two things you can improve, but you kind of almost have it or you don’t.

“He’s got some technical things and bits and bobs to fix up and really it didn’t matter if he didn’t win a match on grass at all for the whole season.

“This is a credit to him. I look through his results and when you’re winning tiebreakers, that’s a good sign even when you’re losing matches.

“To me, that’s a really good sign of being able to play under pressure.”

Popyrin has designs on making a charge at the All England Club but Cash said just being there was a bonus.

“He’s here for experience. We want all the experience we can possibly get,” he said. “We wanted tough matches; we got that. He’s had to play in the rain and wind at Queen’s.

“We worked on his technique a bit, he’s got great volleys … it’s all coming together.”

For the full Wimbledon draw and updated scores go to Wimbledon.com

 -with AAP