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A 7 Footer Wins Big At Wimbledon

Reilly Opelka shines in his Wimbledon debut.

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Reilly Opelka - Australian Open 2019 (foto via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — Stan Wawrinka, a Grand Slam winner, took his tennis defeat by an American with grace. Unlike the way The Sun, the tabloid, took England’s soccer defeat by America.

 

This was the day after, some 24 hours of regret for England’s team, beaten Tuesday night, 2-1 — or as The Sun printed it, 1-2 — by the United States in the semifinal of the Women’s World Cup.

This also was the day of success, Reilly Opelka of Florida upsetting Wawrinka, 7-5. 3-6. 4-6. 6-4, 8-6, Wednesday in a Wimbledon second-round match.

“He went bigger than me,” Wawrinka said, a statement that, since Opelka is 6-foot-11, could be taken literally. “And he deserved to win.”

So did the U.S. women’s team, albeit the way at least one American player, Alex Morgan, celebrated after her goal, America’s second, mimicking someone sipping tea, was unneeded.

In the United Kingdom they call instant replay VAR, or video assistant referee, and it was a replay that showed England was offside when scoring the apparent tying goal with eight minutes remained in regulation time.

Then the low penalty kick by England’s Steph Houghton was grabbed by goalie Alyssa Naeher to preserve the victory.

Or as the headline in The Sun put it, “LIONESSES LOSE TO V.A.R.MERICA”

Some clever people there, if some disenchanted ones. In The Sun, Martin Lipton called Houghton’s penalty kick “awful.” Hey, they did get to the semis, interestingly the same stage the men’s team reached in the 2018 men’s World Cup.

How far Opelka can go in this Wimbledon debut is problematical, especially because in the next round he faces Milos Raonic, who also has a huge serve and was also a finalist here three years ago.

Still, an another American male who actually can win tennis matches — the way American women win soccer matches — is to be appreciated.

Not that you expect to see him on a tennis court instead of a basketball court. And so Opelka, an inch shorter than 7 feet, was asked quickly enough, “Why are you here and not in the NBA?”

Without hesitation, Opelka responded, “Good question.” 

To which the 21-year-old could only answer, “I wish I was. I regret it every day. And yeah, that’s pretty much all I’m going to say.”

Other than basketball is his favorite sport, other than tennis, which now is his profession. “I don’t play (basketball) much anymore,” he said. “When I’m home I shoot every day. I go to the court and play all the time. But like I never played serious or anything.”

The 6-foot-9 John Isner, who’s been on the tennis tour more than a decade, was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year; he’s often said if as a kid he knew how tall he’d become, his choice would have been hoops. Opelka beat Isner in the first round of this year’s Australian Open.

The man has an advantage serving and a disadvantage returning. It was Isner who was locked into that 11-hour, three-day match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, Isner winning 70-68 in the fifth set, when each player hit serves that couldn’t be returned.

Wawrinka, an even 6 feet, who has won the Australian, French and U.S. Opens, was asked if tennis would become the domain of the really big guy, such as the one who whipped him, Opelka.

“Against the big server, you’re not going to have a lot of chances,” said Wawrinka, “but no I don’t think. We’ve been thinking that for 10 years. But no, I don’t think we’re going in that direction.”

Who knows what direction Opelka is going, but beating a Grand Slam champ, even though Wawrinka is now 34, is hardly unimpressive.

“I had to adjust a lot,” said Opelka. “My mind was always thinking, especially after I lost the third set. He was in every return game.

“I played the big points really well on my serve, and that’s what good players do. They find other ways to win that you’re not always comfortable with.” 

Comfortable and uncomfortable, as Opelka pointed out, don’t matter.

As they say in golf, it isn’t how; it’s how many or how much. Opelka had as much as he needed. Just as the night before, the U.S. women soccer team had as much as it needed.

Note: story posted from http://artspander.com with permission from the author. 

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Nadal survives three-set marathon with Shapovalov in Rome

Rafael Nadal saved match points to edge out Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The King of Clay needed three sets and over three hours to claim the win and avoid an upset.

 

Rafael Nadal needed three hours and 27 minutes to beat the Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Italian Open in Rome hitting 29 winners while his counterpart hit 46 unforced errors in the loss.

To everyone’s surprise it was the world number 14 who came out with the faster start earning two breakpoints in the first service game of the match with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break to take an early 1-0 lead and continued to have momentum earning another break and the Spaniard found himself staring at 3-0 defecit.

At 4-1 the world number three would get one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto native would break one more time at 5-3 on his fourth breakpoint of the game to take the first set.

Once again we saw some really strong play from the Canadian in the beginning of the second set we saw history repeat itself when the world number 14 held serve and get the early break this time with his powerful forehand.

Nadal was fighting to stay in the set and the match and managed to earn a breakpoint but it was quickly saved with a big ace from Shapovalov. The very next game the Canadian had a chance to get another break but this time the Spaniard would deny him the opportunity.

After the world number three held serve he went on the attack looking to go back on serve and after three chances would get the break back. He would end up winning five games in a row and would take the second set to send it to a decider.

The third set remained on serve until 2-1 when the Canadian had a chance to break and he would take to jump out to a 3-1 lead. The break didn’t hold as Nadal came storming back the very next game breaking the world number 14 to love and equaling the set at 3-3.

The set and the match would ultimately be decided by a tiebreaker and in that breaker is when the Spaniard would take over winning it 7-3 to book his spot in the quarterfinals.

He will next face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

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Novak Djokovic Moving Into A ‘Good Trajectory’ After Reaching Rome Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is on a good trajectory after reaching the last eight in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic has said that he is on a ‘good trajectory’ after moving into the Rome Quarter-Finals.

 

The world number one moved into the last eight in the Italian capital with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Despite being broken in the first game, Djokovic rallied back to break on five occasions as he cruised past the Erratic Spaniard.

After 1 hour and 11 minutes, Djokovic’s overall game was too much for Davidovich Fokina as the Serb progressed to his 15th quarter-final in Rome.

After the match in his on-court interview the top seed admitted he is on a good trajectory as he builds momentum towards Roland Garros, “I thought I played well,” Djokovic told the ATP website.

“He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court. I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

“He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward. I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

The real test for Djokovic will come tomorrow when he faces top 10 opposition in the last eight.

It will either be Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas or Madrid finalist and home favourite Matteo Berrettini next up for the world number one.

Djokovic was well aware of the form either of his possible opponents are in heading into tomorrow’s showdown, “My next match will be against a Top 10 player, so it is going to be a battle,” Djokovic explained.

“Both of these guys are in great form. Tsitsipas won Monte-Carlo and Berrettini is just coming off the final in Madrid. I am obviously going to do my best to win that match, whoever I play against.”

In the other result in Rome today, Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Aslan Karatsev.

The American hit 18 aces as he will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime or Federico Delbonis on Friday.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas sets up blockbuster third round match against Matteo Berrettini in Rome

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Stefanos Tsitsipas edged past Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2 to advance to third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Tsitsipas has improved his win-loss record to 28-7 this season, equalling Andrey Rublev for most match wins after Rublev beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7 (7-9) 6-1 6-4 earlier today. 

Tsitsipas had to save two break points in the ninth game to hold serve after four deuces. The 2021 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters winner earned his crucial break in the 12th game to win a hard-fought first set 7-5. 

Tsitsipas was in control of the match and cruised to a 6-2 win in the second set with two breaks in the second and eighth games. 

“Sometimes I need to adjust my game and Marin is someone I respect a lot. I knew he was going to come out here and play his best tennis. He made move a lot. It was quite tricky to adjust to that at the beginning, but towards the very end of the first set I stayed calm and stayed calm and resilient. I had to play deep on the returns and find solutions from the baseline rallies. That worked well for me from 6-5”, said Tsitsipas. 

Tsitsipas set up a blockbuster third round match against last week’s Madrid Mutua Open finalist Matteo Berrettini, who beat John Millman 6-4 6-2 in front of fans, who will return on Thursday. Tsitsipas enjoyed the atmosphere on the Pietrangeli Stadium. 

“The Pietrangeli Stadium is very beautiful. It’s one of the best courts on tour. I feel like the Pietrangeli here is great. We are surrounded by trees in the city and it’s very quiet which is very important for tennis. Honestly, I can’t wait for the fans to come and fill in the stadium”, said Tsitsipas. 

Berrettini missed three consecutive break points in the third game of the opening set and earned his first break in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. The Rome-native star served out the first set at 15. Berrettini earned two consecutive breaks to race out to 4-0 lead. Millman saved a break point to hold serve in the fifth game, but Berrettini never looked back in his next two service games to claim the second set 6-2. 

Berrettini has improved with his each appearance in the Rome tournament, reaching the second round in 2018, the third round in 2019 and the quarter final in 2020. 

Tsitsipas beat Berrettini in their only head-to-head match at the 2019 Australian Open. 

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