Monte Carlo first - or bust - for de Minaur and Popyrin

The Sydney duo of Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin will do clay-court battle to become the first Australian man for a quarter-of-a-century to reach the quarter-finals of the prestigious Monte Carlo Masters tournament.

The last-16 duel follows Popyrin's terrific 6-4 6-4 victory, one of the best of his career, over Andrey Rublev that sent the Russian defending champion and world No.6 spinning out of the event on Wednesday. 

Watched by F1 Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz among other luminaries at the Monte Carlo Country Club's main Court Rainier III, Popyrin, the world No.46, accelerated smoothly to a surprisingly comfortable win in an hour and 40 minutes.

"I enjoyed coming out on centre court for the first time. First tournament on clay of the year and I have good memories from clay last year," said Popyrin, winner of the Croatia Open on the surface in 2023.

"I am feeling really comfortable on it and happy to beat a guy who was in form, confident and the defending champ. It was an awesome match."

Rublev, who ended home hope de Minaur's run at the Australian Open, was far from his sharpest, coughing up a host of unforced errors, including one on the final point when his forehand plopped into the net and he hurled down his racquet in disgust.

It set up a third contest between the Australian pair after de Minaur had fought back from a set down to overcome Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 2-6 6-2 6-3, the first time  'Demon' has won two straight clay-court matches since he reached the semi-finals in Lyon in 2022.

Locked at one victory apiece, the victor in the Principality will be the first Australian to make the Monte Carlo quarter-finals since Mark Philippoussis reached the last-eight in 1999.

De Minaur will be wary of the big-hitting 24-year-old Popyrin, six months his junior, who cracked 25 winners past Rublev for only his second-ever triumph over a top-10 player on clay following his victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime in Rome last year.

With the Sydney colleagues making it through, it's the first time any Australian has reached the last-16 since both Lleyton Hewitt and Wayne Arthurs in 2004.

Star attraction at the Country Club was Jannik Sinner, who continued his all-conquering season with a 23rd win from 24 matches by demolishing Sebastian Korda 6-1 6-2 in their second-round clash.

Daniil Medvedev, who beat French veteran Gael Monfils 6-2 6-4, ended up apologising to chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani after a show of petulance in the second set when he shouted at a line judge and whacked the umbrella shade over his seat after a line call went against him.

"How can you apologise, I lost the freaking game, it's a freaking sport, man! You guys are getting ridiculous, with the HawkEye live you don't see anything," Medvedev  had said in the heat of the moment.

But later, after shaking hands and saying sorry to Lahyani, the Russian shrugged: "I am happy I managed to at one moment try to stay calm, to get my composure, that's what I wanted to do more this year.

"There are going to be moments when I still go crazy... but I am 99% sure the ball was out."

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