Opelka and Nishioka Reach First Ever ATP Semifinals at 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Young guns Reilly Opelka and Yoshihito Nishioka came away with resounding wins over their veteran opponents to reach their first career ATP semifinals, and setup contests against the #1 and #2 seeds at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open.
Opelka was dominant on serve, and defeated Donald Young 6-4 6-4. The new tallest player on the ATP World Tour won his first ever ATP main draw match this week, and his great form has carried him into the semifinals. Opelka got an early break, as Young continued his trend of having a slow start in matches. After the chair umpire fell ill, forcing a delay in the match, Opelka would go on to avoid some danger and take the opening set without being broken. In the second it was much the same story, Young got tight serving 2-2 and found himself broken. He failed to generate a single break point chance in the set, and Opelka served it out, as his height allowed him to spin serves over Young’s shoulder.
Earlier in the day Nishioka dispatched Horacio Zeballos in just over an hour, by the same score of 6-4 6-4. The newly top 100 player will soon be into the top 70, as he broke Zeballos to open both sets, and didn’t face a break point the entire match. Not only was it a clinical performance for the Japanese player, Zeballos lacked any spark or passion in the match, compared to what he had shown earlier in the week when he was winning.
Nishioka will face big server Nick Kyrgios, as Kyrgios outlasted Fernando Verdasco 6-4 6-7 6-3 in a match that went on longer than it should. Kyrgios hit 18 aces, and in the first set he was outpacing Verdasco, and playing at a rapid pace. Verdasco perhaps was dealing with a shoulder or neck injury, or he was struggling with his ball toss, as his first serve was weak on the day, and frequently just a kick serve that was under 100 mph. Kyrgios would go wide on return at times, but Verdasco couldn’t pounce on his opponents big serve, and his shots just weren’t clicking in the first set, as his forehand returns frequently just missed the line.
The second set was a tight affair, Kyrgios had to save a pair of break points serving 3-3, and then failed to break when he had a chance in the next game. The match would go into a second set tiebreak, Kyrgios went off the boil in the second and appeared to lose focus, as Verdasco would fight on and force a third set. Verdasco couldn’t maintain the level needed to win the match though, Kyrgios broke early, fired himself up, and served his way through the rest of the match with ease to secure a hard fought three set victory. This is the second time in their careers that Verdasco and Kyrgios have played a three setter, and both times Kyrgios has prevailed on hard courts.
Top seed John Isner dominated young gun Taylor Fritz 7-5 6-4, as Fritz was physically struggling in his match. It’ll be Isner vs. Opelka in a battle of two of the ATP’s tallest players in the next round. Isner hit 20 aces, and was entirely unbothered on his serve. Despite Fritz fighting to save break points, he was eventually broken, and although Isner got tight and was broken back in a surprise, Fritz couldn’t force a tiebreak and Isner served it out after a second break. In the second set both players held serve until Fritz was broken, and things quickly concluded in a 38 minute second set. It’s simply hard to beat Isner on the fast courts of Atlanta.
In doubles Molteni/Zeballos beat Eubanks/Kennedy, and Brunstrom/Siljestrom beat Monroe/Sitak. The Argentine pairing faces Raja/Sharan in the semis, while the Swedish pairing will face Demoliner/Garcia-Lopez.