Reilly Opelka has made the declaration that he wants to be a nightmare to play. On Thursday, he found himself in a bit of a bad dream against Denis Istomin at the New York Open.
It would turn into a good’s night sleep, though, when Istomin retired at the start of the third set with a thigh injury, moving Opelka into the quarterfinals at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
Making adjustments, and recognizing the need for them, are key, especially for a young emerging player. The 21-year-old had an idea in the second set.
“I served great the whole match, I played poor from the baseline, especially off the forehand,” Opelka said. “I made an adjustment mid-match, like 3-all in the second and started hitting my forehand somewhat decent.”
The remedy? Follow through.
“My follow through was so short. I had no extension, the ball wasn’t moving,” he said. “There’s no point for me to hit my forehand and miss half of them and not hurt him with it. Same thing with the forehand return. I just sort of let my hand go and not hold the racket as tight. It helped me play more free.”
Opelka had a set point in the first set tiebreak and failed to convert, allowing Istomin to take advantage and grab the set. In the second set tiebreak, Opelka again had two set points at 6-4, then fumbled a volley into the net and hit a return wide to lose both. But his overhead winner gained a third set point and he cashed in with an ace, one of his 32 total.
Istomin called the trainer before the start of the third set and after a medical timeout to get a massage on his left thigh. He played one game, then retired, with Opelka up 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6), 1-0.
Opelka was happy for the win, disappointed in his play.
“It wasn’t fun for anyone out there,” Opelka said. “I’m not making a ball or winning one point from the baseline. There’s no tennis being played.”
But he lives to play again, this time in the quarterfinals against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who defeated John Millman, 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4.
“It will be a tricky matchup for me,” Opelka said. “He slices really well so he keeps the ball low. He’ll be able to move me. It’s a pretty uncomfortable matchup. If I serve like I did today it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable as well.”
Yes, but will it a be a nightmare?