Jasika Defeats Popko in Opening Round at Launceston Challenger

by John on February 7, 2017

Australian Omar Jasika beat Dmitry Popko 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the Launceston Challenger in Tasmania Tuesday morning. It was the second meeting between the NextGen ATP rising stars in five days and featured some serious baseline bashing. Jasika, fresh off his maiden ATP Challenger title at Burnie on Saturday, had defeated Popko in the semifinals on Friday en route to the title match. With his weekend exploits, the 19-year-old Jasika moved up to No. 4 in the Race to Milan, the inaugural NextGen ATP Finals scheduled in November for the world’s top 21-and-under singles players. It’s been a super start of the year for the left-handed Jasika, who also was a finalist at the Happy Valley Challenger the first week in January. Tuesday’s battle was played almost exclusively from the baseline and Jasika proved to be the steadier and more tenacious of the two. The young Australian, ranked No. 258 in the world, never faced a break point in the opening set and parlayed his own break in the fourth game to take the set with relative ease in 32 minutes. Popko, a 20-year-old Russian playing for Kazakhstan and ranked No. 204, ratcheted up the pressure to start the second set, pressing Jasika to love-30 on his serve in the second game for just the first time in the match. Jasika would hold, but needed to save three break points in both the sixth and eighth games to keep his head above water. Eventually, though, in the baseline rallies, Jasika would wear Popko down, tempting the Kazakh to go for too much and then miss. The Australian forced his first and only break point chance of the second set with Popko serving at 5-5. Jasika cashed the opportunity and served out the match, sealing it with a forehand winner on his first match point. Over and done in one hour and 28 minutes. Jasika landed 78 percent of his first serves and won 69 percent of those points. Each player served three aces. The Australian saved six of six break points, Popko two of four. Jasika will take on American Mitchell Krueger in the second round on Wednesday.

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