Rising Australian star triumphs at Roland Garros
ALEXEI Popyrin has become Australia's first French Open boys' 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.
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.
The 17-year-old 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.