Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, ranked No. 6 in the world, started his 2023 season with a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin on Monday in the ATP 250 Adelaide International 1 first round.
Auger-Aliassime enjoyed a strong second half of the 2022 season, picking up titles in Florence, Antwerp and Basel, as well as helping Canada to the Davis Cup crown, but failed to reach those levels in a 6-4 7-6(5) loss to Popyrin.
The 23-year-old Australian fired 11 aces against his second-seeded adversary to wrap up the biggest triumph of his career. His previous two wins over top 10 opponents, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas, came via retirements.
“Yeah, really good win for me, especially coming off last season where I only had five wins on the circuit. For me it’s a very important win,” Popyrin told reporters in Australia.
“I know I have the level to play against guys like that, and today just proved it, so yeah, I’m happy. I’m not surprised, to be honest, but I’m happy with it.”
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic lost his doubles match but received a warm welcome from the crowd on Monday.
The 21-time major winner was deported from Australia a year ago after arriving unvaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when the country was still subject to strict quarantine regulations and proof of vaccination.
His first match was a low-key doubles encounter alongside Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil, and the pair lost 4-6 6-3 (10-5) to Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar.
Questions about how he would be received were quickly answered when Djokovic’s supporters flocked to the stadium to welcome him back. Djokovic starts his singles campaign on Tuesday against Constant Lestienne as he builds up to the Australian Open, where he is looking for a record-extending 10th title.
Earlier, Czech teenager Linda Noskova produced one of the first major shocks of the 2023 season when she beating eighth-ranked Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3.
The 102-ranked 18-year-old came through a tough qualifying draw in which she defeated world No. 58 Anna Kalinskaya and No. 43 Anastasia Potapova before achieving the biggest win of her career over third-seeded Kastkina.