After No. 1 seed and former Georgia Bulldog John Isner lost in the first round of the BB&T Atlanta Open, all eyes turned to Reilly Opelka, the man who beat him, in the quarterfinals Friday.
And he delivered, edging Dan Evans on a windy yet sunny day just outside of Atlantic Station. The final stat line was 7-6, 7-5. Opelka won the first-set tiebreaker 7-3.
The 6-foot-11 Opelka faced a man who stood more than an entire foot shorter, but they were nearly equal in everything else. Both lost in third round of Wimbledon this year, and both rank in the top 60. But this is the first time they’ve played each other head-to-head.
Opelka, 21, known for his powerful serve, used it effectively against Evans. At times, Evans couldn’t return it well, sliding on the court attempting to hit the ball. But early in the match, Opelka struggled to find his timing, hitting the net a few times on serves and return shots.
But after those minor hiccups, he executed. He scored 23 aces compared with Evans’ 3.
“I served the ball extremely well today,” Opelka said. “This was a difficult match for me because he has a great slice and the ball stays low, so for a big guy like me, that's difficult to deal with. My serve definitely kept me alive."
Opelka said Isner is always his toughest opponent. Isner is only one inch shorter than Opelka and also boasts a powerful serve. They went three tiebreaking sets on Wednesday, and the match lasted more than two hours. After such an exhausting match, Opelka said he’s happy his body responded so well. If he needed to, he said he could have gone a third set Friday.
This win should place Opelka around a top-40 ranking. He will play Saturday in the semifinals against No. 3 seed Alex de Minaur, who beat Opelka earlier this year in Sydney, Australia.
Earlier Friday, de Minaur defeated Bernard Tomic 6-3 after Tomic retired the match because of a back injury, and Cameron Norrie defeated Alexei Popyrin 7-6, 5-4. Norrie advanced to face the winner of the No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz-Miomir Kecmanovic quarterfinal Friday.
In doubles play Friday night, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan will take on Jonathan Erlich and Divij Sharan with a Saturday semifinals berth against Radu Albot and Artem Sitak at stake. The other doubles semifinal Saturday will feature Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow vs. Dominic Inglot and Austin Krajicek.
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