19 Feb Reilly Rains Aces
Opelka Serves Up Quarterfinal Berth
By STEVE DORSEY
Opelka, the No. 4 seed here, delivered 17 aces with no double faults en route to a 6-3, 6-4 win against fellow American Mackenzie McDonald, lifting him into the quarterfinals at Delray Beach for the second time in three years.
The 22-year-old Opelka, who is ranked No. 54 in the world, needed only 64 minutes to oust McDonald after being stretched to three sets in his first-round match against qualifier Ernests Gulbis. Through those two matches, Opelka’s serve has not been broken while he’s fired and 37 aces.
“It’s getting better,” Opelka said of his serving game, particularly his first-serve percentage, of which he registered 72 percent against McDonald. “There’s still some moments where I have some lapses, like yesterday in the second set where I had a lapse and you saw my first serve percentage drop a lot. But it’s gotten a lot better.”
Opelka said he likes to compare his first-serve percentage numbers to John Isner, whom Opelka considers one of the best all-time.
“I don’t model my game after him, but we look at numbers,” Opelka said, speaking of Isner. “Those are things I can definitely model, but we play a little different. I’m trying to get better in every category. A (big) serve (alone) doesn’t just do it.”
Opelka, who lives in nearby West Palm Beach, next faces Korean Soonwoo Kwon, whose all-around game Opelka praised.
“I’ve never played Kwon. I saw him play Milos (Raonic) last week. He’s solid,” Opelka said of his quarterfinal opponent on Friday. “He doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s a nightmare. He moves well, returns well, serves well, he’s fast. Just a very skilled, high IQ tennis player and knows his game well, so I have to play at a high level.”