Reilly Opelka has spent much of the summer embracing an identity as a ‘Serve Bot’ in self-deprecating banter with fellow American John Isner. After charging into the US Open fourth round Saturday night, the 6′ 11″ Florida resident is in need of some new shtick.
Yes, the 24-year-old thundered an obligatory 20+ aces, but he raised eyebrows with five breaks of serve against Nikoloz Basilashvili in a 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4 win. Opelka played his brand of ‘Big Man’ tennis, clubbing 52 winners, including 21 aces. He took big cuts on service returns and won 12 points at net.
And in even better news for Opelka, he thinks there is further improvement left in his game in the second week. “I wasn’t too happy with how I played,” he said. “I think I got off to a slow start. I hit my forehand poorly. I think there’s a lot of good things that come from that. I found a way to win in straight sets against a great player, playing slightly below my average.
“I don’t think I served my best. One thing I think I did a great job of was I came in at the right time and I volleyed unbelievably well in big moments.”
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) September 5, 2021
The South African extended Denis Shapovalov‘s summer of discontent at the US Open Saturday night when he upset the Canadian for the second time this year to reach the second week of a major for the first time in his career. The 24-year-old South African broke serve five times and hit 26 winners to oust the seventh seed 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes.
After back-to-back semi-finals on grass at Queen’s and Wimbledon, Shapovalov had suffered three consecutive opening-round losses before finding form at Flushing Meadows. The Bahamas resident seemed to have turned around his form with two straight-sets wins heading into his third-round meeting with Harris, but 40 unforced errors proved his undoing.
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Harris, who also beat Shapovalov earlier in the year in Dubai, said, “The fourth round is obviously a major accomplishment for me, it’s my first one ever, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I can’t wait to be back. Everything has been coming together this season. I feel confident in my game and I want to keep the momentum going.”
Harris, who is at a career-high No. 46 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, made just 23 unforced errors as he improved to 23-17 on the year.