21 Feb OPELKA AND RAONIC SERVE INTO SATURDAY SEMIS
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Reilly Opelka overwhelmed another opponent with his powerful pinpoint serve Friday night at the ATP Tour’s Delray Beach Open.
Opelka delivered 16 aces with no double faults en route to a 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win against Soonwoo Kwon of Korea in extremely blustery conditions at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center. The victory sends the lanky 6-foot-11 American to his first semifinal in Delray Beach.
Opelka, ranked No. 54 in the world and the No. 4 seed here this week, has registered 53 aces in seven sets over three matches – the most of any player here this week — that has propelled him to his first semifinal since last October at Basel. He improved his record at Delray Beach to 6-2, having also advanced to the quarterfinals here in 2018.
“I was lucky. It was kind of a crapshoot today,” Opelka said of his second consecutive straight-sets win. “The conditions were disgusting. This was tough. This was really tough. I’m all for wind, but this was real testy, and not that fan-friendly either. Given the circumstances, I served unbelievable. I think it’s common to see servers do well here as well. The court is so live and the balls are so live.”
Next up for Opelka is Milos Raonic in Saturday’s semifinals, and Opelka said he plans to continue to attack the way has been doing all week — and all this year, for that matter.
“I played well last week (in New York), I’ve played well this week, I played well even in Australia,” Opelka said. “I’ve been playing good tennis. I’m just going to stick to my game and play my brand of tennis. I’ll have weeks where it works better than others.”
Opelka, the only one of the four American quarterfinalists to win Friday, has not been broken in 37 games here this week. Raonic, his semifinal opponent, has been broken only once in his three matches, all of them of which he has won in straight sets, including a 7-6(6), 6-3 win in Friday’s nightcap against American Steve Johnson.
Raonic, the 2017 runner-up here, improved his record to 8-1 at Delray Beach. His only loss came against Johnson in the 2018 quarterfinals.
“I remember it was similar to today, it was windy. If I remember, I wasn’t as well-tempered as I was today,” said Raonic, the No. 2 seed here who is ranked No. 37 in the world. “It’s tough (in the wind). You have to just sort of scrap and find a way. I was moving well, put a lot of returns in and was doing things that I can control as well as possible. Even when I was behind, I was creating a lot of chances.”
Raonic said he knows he will have to bring his A-game Saturday night against Opelka.
“It’s going to be tough,” Raonic said. “He gets a lot of free points on his serve and you’ve got to find a way to be aggressive.”