There will be no rematch of last year’s thumping semifinal between Reilly Opelka and John Isner at the New York Open, no bone crushing service battle where the two players combined for an ATP Tour record of 81 aces in a three-set match.
Opelka, the eventual champion, did his part on Thursday by beating Yoshihito Nishioka to reach the quarterfinals at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
But Isner, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, couldn’t do enough to beat Australian Jordan Thompson in a three-set nail-biter, falling, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (3), 6-3, in 2 hours, 31 minutes.
There was a single break of serve in the match when Thompson managed to eke one out in the second game of the third set. The huge serving Isner fired 22 aces to only two for the rather tepid serving Thompson. Yet Isner never managed a break, even when he got up 0-40 in the fifth game of the first set.
Isner was coming off a long layoff, having to retire in his third round match at the Australian Open in January with a left foot injury. He seemed to move decently enough, but couldn’t cope with Thompson’s serve placement and made two many errors in the rallies. Thompson will face Andreas Seppi in the quarters.
Opelka found Nishioka a tall order, not that Nishioka could possibly see eye-to-eye with Opelka. The 22-year-old from Japan is 5-7, Opelka 6-11. Nishioka runs faster than he serves and his chief weapon is scampering.
But Nishioka did enough on Thursday to give Opelka a tussle, making Opelka earn a 6-4, 6-4 win (with 20 aces).
“He’s tough, you know, real tough,” Opelka said.
It’s been more than three weeks since Opelka last played a match, a grueling first-round loss at the Australian Open that followed a first-round loss at Adelaide. That’s a long layoff in a sport that demands match toughness, but Opelka was generally pleased with his effort.
“I thought I was pretty clean, pretty committed to playing the same style the whole match,” he said. “I handled adversity well, came up with some big shots on break points.”
Nishioka earned some sportsmanship points by conceding a point to Opelka in the second game of the second set when he played a ball on two bounces that originally was not called by chair umpire Joshua Brace. Opelka protested to Brace, then Nishioka conceded the point and Opelka gave the thumbs up. Nishioka gained some humanitarian points at the Australian Open by donating $10,000 to Australia wildfire relief efforts.
“I know that umpire, he’s one of my favorites, he admits when he is wrong,” Opelka said. “He was like, ‘Did I miss that one?, and I said ‘Yeah, pretty bad.’ He was smiling then Yoshi said it was a double bounce, which was a classy move by Yosh. I expected it from him. He’s a nice guy. I wouldn’t expect him to try to steal a point from me.”
Next up for Opelka in the quarterfinals on Friday is Jason Jung, who beat Cameron Norrie, 6-4, 6-4. In the first match of the day, Kyle Edmund beat Dominik Koepfer, 6-2, 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinals against Soonwoo Kwon, who had beaten No. 3 seed Milos Raonic on the Wednesday night.