Reilly Opelka is into his first Masters 1000 semifinal on the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on the Foro Italico in Rome.
The 23-year-old 6’11” massive-serving American defeated 30-year-old 6’3” lefty Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-5, 7-6(2) in a single hour and 41 minutes.
Opelka not solely serves onerous—in the present day he served a 145 mph second serve, the quickest in historical past—however he additionally carves and kicks the ball so it jumps and spins unreachably excessive via the air.
In an interview after the match, Opelka (who hasn’t misplaced a set the entire event), advised Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj: “You have a look at John Isner—he’s had plenty of success on clay.
“I believe there’s a nice line. I believe the larger guys that may get plenty of free factors on their serve and can even profit from having extra time on the primary ball are gonna have some extra success than another massive guys.
“It simply provides you extra time and should you’re serving nicely sufficient, the floor doesn’t have an effect on it that a lot.”
In Opelka’s first service recreation, he seemed nervous—his toes weren’t shifting nicely—and he acquired down love-40. However he dug his method out of it.
He solely confronted 4 break factors within the match, and he saved all of them.
The second set went to a tiebreaker, and Opelka performed some very nice all-court tennis with nice protection, nice volleys, nice really feel with a well-disguised dropshot.
When Opelka is on tune—crushing serves and forehands, making backhand winners, shifting ahead—he can actually problem, if not beat, the highest gamers within the world.
Opelka hit 18 aces and gained 80 p.c of his first serve factors and 74 p.c of his second serve factors.
“It’s form of like being a pitcher,” Opelka stated. “I believe the higher I get from the baseline and the much less involved I’m of the ball coming again, the extra open-minded I’m to mixing up my serve, and I believe it truly makes it more durable.
“Clearly being seven foot and having among the finest serves on the planet and let’s say you’re not hitting the ball nicely from the baseline, it’s gonna be apparent you’re gonna wish to go for the ace.
“However once you’re hitting the ball nicely from the backcourt and you’ll win factors in quite a lot of methods, it permits me to really feel extra free so as to add extra selection to my serve as a substitute of simply going for the bomb.
“I believe that makes it tougher for guys to deal with as a result of they see a sluggish kick possibly on my first serve or a brief slider or possibly one within the physique as a result of I’m not as involved of the ball coming again or not.”
Subsequent up for Opelka is one other lefty, Rafael Nadal, who has gained a report 9 titles in Rome. It ought to be an interesting encounter.