Two of the best serves in the business were on show in Toronto on Monday night and it was Reilly Opelka who delivered in a three-set defeat of Nick Kyrgios. In the first ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair, the American prevailed 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 to reach the second round of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers.
The 23-year-old fired 22 aces to Kyrgios’ 16 and clocked 18 forehand winners on his way past the World No. 80. He dropped only six points on his first serve and faced only two break points.
“Yeah it’s as expected – he’s got one of the best serves in the world, his skillset is off the charts,” Opelka said of Kyrgios. “When you’re not on tour for a while it’s hard to be as sharp. It takes time. I know his best tennis of the season will probably come around at the US open but yeah he’s still a nightmare.”
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Opelka has only won back-to-back matches twice this year from 14 events – on his run to a maiden ATP Masters 1000 semi-final in Rome and when he reached the third round at Roland Garros. He could string together consecutive match wins on hard courts for the first time in 2021 should he find a way past 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov next, with the reward a potential showdown with second seed Rafael Nadal in the third round.
Opelka only conceded six points on serve in the opening set but four of those came in the seventh game when he was broken. Kyrgios had twice reached the last 16 in Montreal, but had won only one match previously in Toronto.
He looked on track when he carried the advantage to a one-set lead after 30 minutes and came within two points of victory as neither player could be separated on serve deep in the second set. With both on song throughout the tie-break, Opelka started to read his opponent’s serve better.
There was a point of contention when Kyrgios believed the American’s foot had touched the net during play. The ensuing argument with the chair umpire was to little avail as he surrendered the set on a double fault.
“Yeah that 5-4 point I guessed right and clocked the forehand and made it a difficult situation for him and then 6-4 he was a little frustrated,” Opelka said. “A guy like that, he returns so well, I thought he was going to make me serve for it but I got lucky, he was a little flustered.”
It was all square at the 82-minute mark and despite missing three break points in the opening game of the deciding set, Opelka pounced on his next opportunity to edge ahead 2-1.
Two match points against the Kyrgios serve went begging, but there was no mistake at the third time of asking as Opelka served it out at the two-hour mark.
In the earlier night match, American Tommy Paul denied home favourite Vasek Pospisil 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3. Having taken the first set, the Canadian overcame a bout of cramps and stood toe-to-toe in the deciding set until he was broken in the eighth game.
Meanwhile, a trio of Russian Tokyo Olympic medallists made winning starts in doubles on Monday. Men’s singles silver medallist Karen Khachanov and mixed doubles gold medallist Andrey Rublev opened their Toronto doubles campaign with a 6-4, 7-6(6) victory over Canadian wild cards Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexis Galarneau.
The Russians won 88 per cent of first-serve points and saved all seven break points faced. Aslan Karatsev teamed up with Serbian Dusan Lajovic to join his compatriots in the second round, following a 6-4, 6-7(4), 10-8 victory over Alex de Minaur and Cameron Norrie.