The heavy rains that hit Melbourne, Australia Sunday night likely were extremely welcome for the citizens there that have been ravaged by brushfires.
But they did no favors for one of the top tennis players in the world.
Former Indian Trails Middle School student Reilly Opelka was cruising along in his first-round Australian Open match against No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini, up two sets to none, and was a few games away from scoring the upset.
But after rain washed out the match Sunday night, they came back Monday and it was a whole different story.
Fognini, who lost to Opelka at the U.S. Open last August, rallied for a dramatic five-set win, including a fifth-set tiebreak victory, grabbing a 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 triumph.
All the momentum and positive vibes from a day earlier were gone, and though he played an outstanding fifth set, Opelka couldn’t quite get over the line against the volatile but talented Fognini.
It was the second year in a row the 22-year-old Opelka was knocked out of the season’s first Slam in a five-setter, and has to be bitterly disappointing given how the match started.
Opelka got off to a terrific start at 1573 Arena, breaking Fognini in the eighth game of the first set, then serving the set out, 6-3, to grab an early lead.
Then in the second set, Opelka continued his outstanding play, holding serve with ease and playing a stellar tiebreak, as his opponent, as is typical, got extremely frustrated. Fognini smashed a racket during the tiebreaker and Opelka cruised to a 7-3 breaker win and a two-sets lead. (Both players eventually had arguments with the chair umpire, as Opelka got upset in the fourth set when he was given a time violation).
Opelka fired 35 aces in the match, but committed 73 unforced errors to go with 60 winners.
Prior to the tournament Opelka, who reached the second round here last year after upsetting John Isner, also made a big change in his clothing, switching from New Balance, who signed him when he turned pro in 2016, to Fila.
–Michael J. Lewis for FlaglerLive