American Reilly Opelka keeps checking off the milestones to start 2019. Last month, he earned his first Grand Slam win, upsetting No. 10 John Isner in four sets at the Australian Open. On Thursday, Opelka advanced to his third ATP Tour quarter-final at the New York Open.
The 6'11” Opelka was leading Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin 6-7(8), 7-6(6), 1-0 when the 32-year-old retired (leg). Opelka hit 32 aces and won 95 per cent of his first-serve points (56/59) in the abbreviated match.
The 21-year-old will try to reach his second tour-level semi-final (Atlanta 2016) when he faces Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who beat Aussie John Millman 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 to reach his first ATP Tour quarter-final of the year.
The two other Americans in singles action had a mixed day at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island. Sixth seed Sam Querrey had no trouble with Moldova's Radu Albot, winning 6-3, 6-4. The 2018 finalist landed almost 75 per cent of his first serves and never faced a break point.
Querrey will face Jason Jung of Chinese Taipei. The 29-year-old upset second seed Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. 6-3, 7-5. Jung, No. 143 in the ATP Rankings, rode an early break to a one-set lead. He stumbled while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, but he broke back immediately.
“It's been a long time coming. I've worked hard for a lot of years. It hasn't been easy. I'm just so happy for this moment and have to try to enjoy this for a couple hours and then prepare for tomorrow,” Jung said.
Tiafoe, who received a late wild card, was fresh off his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open (l. to Nadal). “I thought he played great tonight. He came after me, and I just didn't have answers for him,” Tiafoe said.
In doubles, Americans Tennys Sandgren/Jackson Withrow upset Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan, the top seeds, 7-6(9), 6-4. The Bryans were playing in their second event of the year after making the quarter-finals in Melbourne.
Did You Know?
In the semi-finals of the Boys’ 16s singles championships at the 2004 Easter Bowl, Querrey defeated Jung 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. “I remember it was three sets, and I had a really bad back. I guess I wasn’t doing my core exercises when I was 15, but it’ll be exciting tomorrow,” Jun
This time last year, Sam Querrey was playing arguably the best tennis of his career. In the New York Open final, the American had a chance to not just lift his 11th ATP Tour title, but crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time. But Querrey lost to eventual Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Kevin Anderson in a final-set tie-break.
It was part of a theme for Querrey in 2018. The 6’6” right-hander lost 22 matches last season, and eight of them came in final-set tie-breaks. Seven of those eight defeats came in the Round of 16 or earlier in a tournament, meaning that he lost out on several opportunities for big runs.
“It makes a huge difference. Not that you’re going to win every one of those, but if all of a sudden I go 50-50 on those, that’s four more matches won, that’s 100-something more ATP Ranking points and you never know what’s on the other side of those,” Querrey said. “You can continue on with more wins, so it’s tough to swallow those. I think I was pretty passive in a lot of those matches, and that’s something that I really want to focus on in those matches this year if I get to those positions again.”
Querrey owns 20 victories against Top 10 opponents, so he has proven his ability to perform under pressure. But those triumphs have come when he has swung freely and let go of any apprehension in his game, competing ‘light’. That’s something he is trying to improve in 2019.
“Sometimes it’s easier said than done. But that’s definitely going to be my theme this year, and I’m not just doing it in those pressure situations late in a match,” Querrey said. “I’m trying to do it from point one, that way, when those situations come, it’s not like, ‘Oh, now all of a sudden I’m going to try to hit the ball big.’ If you start from the first point and do those things it won’t be awkward or jarring later in a match.”
Craig Boynton, Querrey's coach, said: “In a nutshell, it’s commitment without hesitation and letting whatever happens, let it be. Let it be. If you hit a winner, if you miss by a little, if you miss by a lot, understand the situation. Understand what you’re trying to ultimately accomplish, commit, and move onto the next.
“For Sam that is the recipe for being light and creating momentum.”