Alexei Popyrin admits he got “stuck” last year as a lack of confidence and direction spoiled his return to the world’s top 100.
The Australian will enjoy the wildcard entry at his childhood courts at the Sydney Tennis Classic after a disappointing first-round exit at Melbourne’s Summer Set last week.
The world No.61 shot back into a double figure ranking last year after winning his maiden ATP event in Singapore.
A habit of rising to the occasion has seen the underdog make the third round twice at both his home major and the US Open.
The 22-year-old admits inconsistency has hurt him though, particularly last year when “after the clay-court season it kind of went downhill from there”.
“Last year I started the year off really well … had some tight losses against some really good players,” he said.
“But mid last year … I was kind of stuck, not confident in my game, not playing the best tennis that I could have played.”
Allaying those doubts will be key though as he presses for a top-50 berth, perhaps best served by watching a replay of his first-round upset of 13th seed David Goffin at Melbourne Park last year.
“Try and not be too down on myself after losses and try and get back out there and just believe in myself, because that’s probably the most important thing is that the belief that I have in myself, the belief in my capabilities that I can get to where I want to get,” he said.
Happy memories in Sydney will spur him on this week, Popyrin’s first assignment tricky Spaniard Pedro Martinez.
“There’s no pressure at all (playing at home) if anything, it pumps me up even more,” he said.
“I was here watching the tournament when I was a kid. I remember I got one of Igor Andreev’s sweatbands, and I was really hyped about that one.”