Big-serving American Reilly Opelka’s strong week continued Friday in Toronto as he downed 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 7-6(1) at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers to advance to his second ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.
The 23-year-old saved one match point in his third-round win over Lloyd Harris and backed this victory up against Bautista Agut, hitting 18 aces and winning 85 per cent (35/41) of his first-service points to advance in 83 minutes.
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“To beat Roberto Bautista Agut shows you are at a high level,” Opelka said in his on-court interview. “He is pretty consistent, so if you aren’t at a high level, you don’t have a shot against him. I came into the match with confidence and played flawlessly today.”
Opelka’s previous best result this season came at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, in which he also advanced to the semi-finals at the Masters 1000 clay-court event in Rome. Having now matched this, the two-time tour-level titlist will next face third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas after the Greek defeated Casper Ruud.
“[Tsitsipas] has got a great serve,” Opelka said. “He has the best forehand in the world right now and he moves very well. It is very hard to find his backhand, he moves to the left to cover it. He hits forehands from every part of the court, is aggressive and competes well.”
With victory, Opelka has levelled his ATP Head2Head Series with Bautista Agut at 2-2. If countryman John Isner can overcome 11th seed Gael Monfils later on Friday, it will be the first time that two Americans have advanced to the last four in Canada since Michael Chang and Chris Woodruff did in 1997 in Montreal.
In a tight first set, in which both players dominated on serve, Opelka took the one break point that was on offer in the set when he found the feet of Bautista Agut, who was unable to find the court with his volley. From 3-1 ahead, Opelka served consistently as he closed out the set to lead.
The second set followed a similar pattern, with 17 points in a row going with serve as both struggled to impact the match on return. In the tie-break, Opelka raised his level, striking the ball with great power, sealing his victory with a forehand winner.
Bautista Agut was aiming to reach the semi-finals at a tour-level event for the first time since he enjoyed a run to the last four in Miami in March. The World No. 17 has reached finals at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier and the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha this year.