‘This is painful’: Star’s Open heartbreak

Aussie rising star Alexei Popyrin has enjoyed another milestone win in his burgeoning tennis career, downing former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the Australian Open first round.

Tsonga, the 28th seed, was forced to withdraw from the match after breaking down with a suspected back injury when he was trailing the 20-year-old Australian 6-7 (7-5) 6-2 6-1.

Popyrin, ranked 96th in the world, had a strong run in last year’s Australian Open, beating two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem enroute to the third round.

He has now tasted the second biggest win of his career — knocking off a seed at a grand slam for the first time since his fabled 2019 Australian Open run.

Tsonga carried a back injury throughout the 2019 season and continued to complain to the ATP Tour physio and Australian Open tournament doctor during a medical time out at the end of the third set.

Alexei Popyrin vs Jo-Wilfred Tsonga ended with a medical retirement.Source:News Corp Australia

Tsonga was heard on the court microphones admitting he had already taken anti-inflammatory pain-killers earlier that day. The doctor responded by informing the French star that it was not safe for him to be given any other form of pain-killer on the court.

Tsonga then grimaced before getting up from his seat and walking to the umpire’s chair to officially forfeit.

Popyrin met Tsonga at the net and the pair shared an emotional moment where they embraced in front of the umpire.

Alexei Popyrin and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga embraced after the Frenchman pulled the pin.Source:Twitter

Popyrin has previously said Tsonga was his favourite player as a kid.

Seeing his idol break down left Popyrin emotional in his post-match interview with Channel 9.

Popyrin said straight after the match that he had “never felt like this” winning through to the second round.

Alexei Popyrin all class as he hails his hero after moving through to the second round.

Nick Kyrgios up next!

Watch: @Channel9
Stream: https://t.co/yizqD30Pp8#9WWOS #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/r9lWmruvuB

“This is a painful one. I’ve never felt like this after a match,” he said.

“He was my favourite player as a kid. Seeing him make the final (At the Australian Open) as a kid I was jumping around my living room like a crazy kid. Seeing him, hurt, seeing him in pain, having to retire in this match is just painful.

“It’s just tough to see him have to retire and in pain.”

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