The last time Australian James Duckworth played countryman Alexei Popyrin in California, in an ATP Challenger Tour event in 2018, he needed a final-set tie-break to triumph. Popyrin tested Duckworth again on Monday in the first round of the San Diego Open, but the veteran again found a way through.
The seventh seed surged past Popyrin 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 behind 14 aces in two hours and 20 minutes to reach the second round. Duckworth saved six of the eight break points he faced to move to 2-0 in his ATP Head2Head series with Popyrin.
The 30-year-old will next try to reach his second tour-level quarter-final of the year, having advanced to the last eight in Newport in July. He will play one of two American qualifiers: Christopher Eubanks or Mitchell Krueger.
Duckworth has found form in recent weeks, having made an ATP Challenger Tour final in France earlier this month. It is an important week for the Australian, who is defending 150 Pepperstone ATP Rankings points this week that he earned last year by reaching the final in Nur-Sultan.
In other action, Tomas Martin Etcheverry won an all-Argentine clash against qualifier Facundo Mena 7-6(6), 6-3 in two hours and six minutes. The World No. 89 will next challenge third seed Marcos Giron of the United States.
There are two matches still to be played on Monday. Eighth seed J.J. Wolf will play fellow American Stefan Kozlov and home favourite Brandon Holt, who qualified for the US Open and reached the second round, will try to defeat Frenchman Constant Lestienne.